Red, White, and Blue Sundaes

July 1st, 2021

I know I just posted a recipe, but this one is ideal for July 4 so I’m giving it to you this week. I promise not to inundate you in future!

As far as I am concerned, July Fourth isn’t primarily a day for cooking. I think of it as a day for family and community.

I love to swim with family and friends. I enjoy watching the Independence Day parade at noon in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and I adore listening to Mohawk Trail Concerts’ annual jazz offering in the afternoon. I’m thrilled that the latter two events are returning this year after their COVID-induced hiatus in 2020.

I’m not a fan of fireworks. I spent too much time when I was little overseas in countries where explosives were readily available and children could burn themselves. If my neighborhood is planning a display, however, I try to be a good sport and not cover my eyes and ears too obviously during the fireworks.

Despite all of these activities (and more!), one has to eat—and it’s nice to have something in one’s repertoire for Independence Day that goes beyond hot dogs.

You may have your own special summery dishes: a great aunt’s potato salad, a smashed hamburger (these are very popular right now on the internet), sun tea, a strawberry pound cake.

Here I offer a couple of suggestions in case readers need a little recipe inspiration. Actually, I’m just offering ONE—but I suggest you visit some past recipes here as well. Tammy’s Tangy Kielbasa is easy and tasty. Cliff’s Potato-Chip Chicken is more work, but it has a holiday appeal.

My new recipe this week is a red, white, and blue sundae. It uses strawberries (which are finishing up their season in these parts) and blueberries (which are starting theirs). If you want to simplify life, look in a cookbook for a standard ice-cream formula that doesn’t require cooking like my custard recipe.

If you want to make things even simpler, purchase your ice cream. I suggest a high-quality local brand.

I wish you a glorious fourth of activity and eating.

Red, White, and Blue Sundaes

The Sauce:

Ingredients:

2 cups cut-up strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 generous tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Place the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a nonreactive (stainless steel or enamel) saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat, add a little bit of the butter, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter so that it melts, and continue to stir the mixture for 3 to 4 more minutes to distribute the berries. Use immediately or refrigerate. Makes about 1-1/3 cups sauce.

Vanilla Ice Cream:

Ingredients:


1-1/2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2/3 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

Heat the milk until it is steamy but not boiling. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture is thick and light yellow (about 4 minutes).

Whisk a bit of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Then whisk in more, up to 3/4 cup. Whisk the milky egg yolks into the remaining milk. Cook over medium heat until the custard begins to thicken but does not boil (about 2 to 3 minutes on my gas stove).

Remove the custard from the heat, and strain it into a heatproof bowl or pot. Cover and cool thoroughly.

When the custard is cold whisk in the cream, vanilla, and salt. Place this mixture in your ice-cream freezer and churn until done.

This recipe makes a little more than a quart of ice cream.

Assembly:

For each sundae, scoop out 1/2 cup ice cream. Spoon on some strawberry sauce, dab on a little whipped cream (optional but good), and top with a couple of fresh local blueberries.

Lovely Pink Blossoms

June 29th, 2021

My chive blossoms are winding down, but I still have some. Chives are the first herbs to come up in my garden, and when their pink flowers join the green stalks I’m in springtime heaven.

Each year I make chive-blossom vinegar. It’s the prettiest vinegar I know. I often give it to friends … who then want to know what to do with it. The recipe below is for them. I also put it in any salad that can use a little onion flavor; yesterday, it gave zip to my chicken salad.

This potato salad would be great for July 4. Happy summer!

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Ingredients:

enough chive blossoms to fill at least half of a clean 1-cup jar
just under 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Instructions:

Place the chive blossoms in the jar. Heat the vinegar until it smells strong and just starts to bubble around the edges. Pour it over the blossoms, and cover loosely. Later in the day, tighten the cover. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for 2 days, turning it a couple of times a day; then strain the vinegar into a clean jar through cheesecloth. Makes just under 1 cup of vinegar.

Chivy Potato Salad

Ingredients:

4 to 5 medium potatoes, cleaned but not necessarily peeled and then diced
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste (go lightly with the salt!)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (plus more if needed)
2 generous tablespoons chive blossom vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
chopped chives to taste
chopped dill to taste
crumbled bacon for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Boil the potato pieces until they are just tender. Drain them, and toss them with the lemon juice, oil, and some salt. Let the mixture cool. Add the celery, egg, and herbs. Blend the mayonnaise the vinegar, the pepper, and the mustard. Toss this mixture onto the salad. If you need to, add a little more mayonnaise. Taste and adjust the flavors. Top with a few more chopped chives and crumbled bacon (if desired). Serves 6.

Watch me make it here:

Tinky Makes Chive Blossom Vinegar and Potato Salad

For Email Subscribers

June 18th, 2021

Dear Subscribers:

I’ll be posting a recipe in a few days. If you have been subscribing via Feedburner, your new posts will look different. They will be coming via Mailchimp (you may get this one BOTH ways), and they may not even say “In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens” at the top. They will be from me, however, and they should arrive. As I may have mentioned, Feedburner is about to go away. So … please be patient, and do continue reading. Happy almost summer!

Tinky

Springtime Carrot Cake

May 21st, 2021

Here’s a carrot recipe before I move on to asparagus and rhubarb. I love fruit- and vegetable-based cakes. They are moist and flavorful, and one can delude oneself that one is getting nutrition. (One is, of course, but one is also getting fat, flour, and sugar. Sigh.)

I confess that I have posted a version this recipe before. The previous recipe was slightly different, however, and it made a big cake. I don’t always want a big cake. If you don’t have a six-cup bundt pan, you may use an 8-by-8-inch square pan; just check the oven a little sooner. But I highly recommend getting the smaller bundt pan. I use mine all the time when I’m serving a small family or crowd.

Thanks to my cousin Deb Smith for the original recipe!

The Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1-1/2 cups grated carrots (about 1/2 pound)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan. Combine the butter, the oil, and the sugar; then add the eggs, followed by the salt, the cinnamon, and the baking soda. Stir in the flour, followed by the carrots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the cake for 20 minutes; then remove it from the pan and cool it completely before icing it with cream-cheese frosting. Serves 8.

And now the video to go with the cake!

Tinky Makes Carrot Cake

Comfort Food at Its Best

April 30th, 2021

This column appeared in our local paper, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with a wider audience!

Sometimes when recipe inspiration doesn’t strike me, I call on friends (or friends of friends) who are good home cooks. Recently, I contacted writer and scholar Martha Ackmann.

I knew Martha would come up with something tasty. I also knew she would be fun to talk to. It didn’t occur to me that she would offer me a recipe from Dolly Parton … but when she did I was thrilled.

Martha is working on a book about Parton. I asked her, “Why Dolly?”

She replied, “My niche is women who’ve changed America.”

Her previous books have chronicled the lives of the Mercury 13, a group of women in the 1960s who were secretly tested as potential U.S. astronauts; Toni Stone, a pioneering player in baseball’s Negro League; and Emily Dickinson.

Martha explained that she has been interested in Dolly Parton since the singer’s early days performing on The Porter Wagoner Show.

“I want to take her seriously,” Martha said of Parton. “I love her music. I think it’s joyous and heartwarming, and it makes me feel better. Even the things she calls her ‘sad-ass songs.’”

“I’ve been spending a lot of the lockdown just doing the basic research, and boy is there a lot of it!” Martha added.

As a former resident of East Tennessee (my friend Bill played in the Sevierville County High School Marching Band with Parton), I, too, am a long-time Dolly fan. I believe Martha is the perfect person to write about this complex public personality.’

“I have always been impressed by her seriousness,” Martha told me.

She noted that Parton’s history has been entwined with food from the start of the star’s life. Martha cited Parton’s origin story, which recounts that father Robert Lee Parton didn’t have the funds to pay the doctor who brought the child into the world and ended up paying for the birth with a sack of cornmeal.

Food production was important throughout Parton’s time growing up poor with a passel of brothers and sisters, Martha informed me.

“Dolly’s family grew their own food not to sell but to sustain their large family,” she explained. “They had a big kettle for cooking hominy and stews, a ‘tater hole’ for storing potatoes and turnips. The walls of their kitchen were covered with nails for drying fruits, peppers, garlic, dill, onions, and beans.

“They grew asparagus behind the woodshed. Had both red and black raspberries. A smoke house for salted pork, ham, bacon. There were cardboard boxes in the cupboard for dried shellie beans, corn, black-eyed peas; and sacks of walnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, beechnuts.

“A large garden, of course (tomatoes, okra, lettuce). Chickens, hogs, cows. They also ate a lot of game,” Martha concluded.

She argued that in some ways food has also helped shape Parton’s music. “As a child, Dolly always listened to the rhythm around her: birds chirping, the creak of a rocking chair. She also remembers hearing her mother snapping beans. The rhythm of those snaps sounded like music to her. Food equals music.”

Martha describes herself as “a good, solid, not flashy, evolving Midwestern cook.”

Like Parton, Martha’s Missouri family had rural roots. She recalls her country-born grandparents butchering their own meat in their tiny backyard in St. Louis. Martha is the designated cook in her own household. She was eager to try one of Parton’s signature recipes when I asked her for a dish.

Together, Martha and I selected Dolly Parton’s Chicken and Dumplings, a perfect recipe for our recent cool weather. Like any good home cook, Martha adapted the recipe a bit … and she admitted that she might adapt it even more next time she makes it.

She is considering more vegetables (leeks, beans) and perhaps some herbs (parsley, thyme, bay leaf) to the stock. She told me that the dish was satisfying as it was, however, and that it epitomized comfort.

“The dumplings were easy to make,” she elaborated, “and preparing them gave me an occasion to use my great aunt’s rolling pin! (Beulah Clementine Snook Erdel. Isn’t that a noble name?)

“All the time I was making the dumplings, I thought about Dolly’s mother feeding 11 hungry kids and the Missouri farm women in my own family rolling out countless pie crusts, biscuits, and dumplings. This is a good recipe for remembering hard-working women.” Here is Martha’s recipe. Listen to a little Dolly Parton music as you make and eat it.

Martha with the Rolling Pin (courtesy of Ann Romberger)

Dolly’s Chicken ‘n’ Dumplin’s

(Adapted by Martha Ackmann)

Ingredients:

for the stock and the chicken:

1 3-pound chicken, cut up, or 3 pounds of chicken parts
2 teaspoons salt
pepper to taste
1 onion, peeled but left whole
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
chopped carrots and celery to taste

for the dumplings:

2 cups flour, plus additional flour for kneading
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup milk

for assembly:
a little parsley for garnish

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, combine the chicken and the salt with 2 quarts of water. Cover, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Toss in the pepper, onion, and celery leaves. Simmer the chicken, covered, until the meat comes off the bones. (This took Martha about 45 minutes.)

Strain the mixture, discarding the vegetables but saving the broth and chicken.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bones. Cut it into bite-size pieces. Set it aside. Turn the heat up to high, and bring the stock to a boil. Toss the carrots and celery into the liquid.

While the stock is boiling, begin to work on the dumplings. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.

Cut in the shortening with knives or a pastry blender. Stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the dough is moist. Turn it onto a floured board, and knead it for 5 minutes.

Roll the dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut it into 1-1/2-inch squares. Drop the squares into the boiling stock. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring gently from time to time.

Return the chicken to the pot. Stir it and heat it until it is thoroughly warm, about 8 minutes.

To serve, place 3 or so dumplings in a shallow soup dish, place chicken to taste on top, and ladle on some stock with carrots and celery. Serve warm, garnished with parsley. Serves 4 to 5.

Courtesy of Christina Barber-Just