Posts Tagged ‘Tinky Weisblat’

Thinking Ahead in 2010

Monday, January 4th, 2010


New Year’s Resolutions can be tricky things. If we take them too seriously—try to turn our lives around completely—they can be dangerously difficult to maintain.
Instead of making impossible resolutions this January, therefore, I’m using the turn of the year for reflection and planning. Naturally, In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens is coming in for its share of both activities.
This weekend I looked over many of my posts from the past year or so in an effort to figure out where the blog goes from here. I have selected several types of post that have turned out to be very popular with readers, with me, or with both.
Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Characters I Have Known such as Florette Zuelke and Sylvia Hubbell;
Comfort Food like Faith’s Tunafish & Noodles or Irish Stew;
Contributions from Friends & Readers, such as Erin’s Pizza or Mike’s Louisiana Red Beans & Rice;
Historical Figures, Events, and Places, including Susan B. Anthony and George Washington’s Gristmill;
Holidays, from Mardi Gras to Oatmeal Month (I know oatmeal month isn’t technically a holiday, but we did celebrate it last year!);
Local and Seasonal Foods, from Rhubarb to Squash;
Songs and Music, including such popular standards as “September Song” and “Moon River”;
TV and Film Figures and Foods, featuring people like Vivian Vance and Harriet Nelson.
In the next year I hope to touch on each of these categories at least once a month (which probably means I’ll get to them once every other month; I AM a procrastinator!).
I’ll also be continuing my monthly Twelve Cookies of Christmas series.
And naturally I’ll frequently have to resort to posting a recipe for What We Just Ate.
Some people might argue that each of my categories could spark its own blog. It’s always been both a weakness and a strength of mine that I have many, many passions.
This scattered interest makes it hard for me to focus at times. I think it makes me a more interesting person, cook, and writer, however.
As the year goes by I hope regular readers—and even irregular readers—will help me build up the different categories. Please let me know which of them you favor.
And of course please tell me what I have left out that you’d like to read about.
Two of the categories—Contributions from Readers & Friends and The Twelve Cookies of Christmas—will depend on you in large part for contributions. The name of this blog is In OUR Grandmothers’ Kitchens, after all. Please consider submitting a recipe (with background information) to me in the next few months.
I hope together we’ll have a delicious new year!
Paula Rice, the Supreme Leader of the Meat Counter at Avery's, slices dried beef.
Paula Rice, the Senior Slicer at the Meat Counter at Avery’s, slices dried beef.

Frizzled Beef

Since I’ve spent so much time mulling over the past year recently today’s recipe naturally falls into the What We Just Ate category (although it’s also highly eligible for Comfort Food!).
My mother and I invited friends to supper Saturday night. What with snow falling outside and lots of work to do, we didn’t have much opportunity to shop or cook that day.
So we ended up with Frizzled Beef (a.k.a. chipped beef, a.k.a. S.O.S. or Same Old … um … Stuff).
Our local general store, Avery’s, stocks lovely dried beef at this time of year. The nice folks behind the meat counter will slice as much or as little as one likes.
The beef saves for weeks so it’s a great fallback food on snowy days. And it cooks up in minutes.
The recipe I used for the beef came from Gam, our neighborhood matriarch, as did Saturday’s oyster recipe. (I used to stay at her house a lot at this time of year so I guess I’m thinking of her!)
If you want to vary it, you may sauté a little onion and/or celery in butter in your frying pan before you add more butter and the dried beef.
You may also throw cooked peas and/or a pinch of thyme into the final product.
Frizzled beef may be eaten over biscuits, puff pastry, cornbread, or a baked potato. My mother and I had just baked some fresh oatmeal bread the other evening so we served it on toast. A salad and brownies completed our supper.
The guests didn’t complain about the simplicity of the meal. It was warm and tasty. And it was enhanced by candlelight and conversation. (Don’t forget those important ingredients when you serve it yourself.)
1/2 pound dried beef
a pat of butter the size of an egg
flour as needed
1 egg yolk beaten into 1 cup milk (plus a little more if needed) and 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper to taste
If you are averse to a lot of salt, rinse the beef carefully and pat it dry. Dried beef is heavily cured (that’s why it lasts so long) so it can be very salty.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan. When it is hot, add the beef and toss it around to coat it in the butter.
Dust the warm beef with flour and toss it around for a minute or two. Pour in the egg mixture. Bring the mixture just to the boil, adding a bit more milk if it looks very thick; then dish it up.
Serves 4.

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Peppermint-Swirl Brownies

Thursday, December 24th, 2009


Regular readers may ask whether in fact I didn’t just post a peppermint-brownie recipe. The answer is yes, I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!
I don’t believe a cook can combine chocolate and peppermint too often at this time of year. And the two brownie recipes, although both good, are quite different.
This one is a holiday version of a basic cream-cheese brownie. The fudgy base is adapted from King Arthur Flour. The cream-cheese-peppermint layer might be a bit much on any other day of the year, but not on Christmas Eve.
We took them yesterday to lunch with my one of my mother’s oldest friends, Riley Yriart, and her son Juan. My mother and Riley met in France in 1937 and still like to get together whenever they can.
Riley may look a little doubtful about the brownies in the photo below, but she did seem to like them.
Jan (left) and Riley met in college. They stil enjoy each other's company--and a little good food and good wine.

Jan (left) and Riley met in college. They still enjoy each other's company--and a little good food and good wine.

for the brownie base:
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips
for the peppermint layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 or 2 drops of red food coloring (enough to make the mixture a gentle pink–optional)
4 to 5 candy canes, crushed (the more pulverized the better)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper or foil, and grease the parchment (or foil).
Begin with the brownie base. In a 3-quart saucepan over low heat melt the butter. Add the 2 cups of sugar, and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat briefly—until hot but not bubbling. (It will become shiny looking as you stir it.)
Remove it from the heat and let it cool briefly while you assemble the other ingredients.
Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Add the eggs, beating until smooth; then stir in the flour and chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into your pan.
Next, work on the cream-cheese layer. In a small mixing bowl beat the cream cheese. Beat in the 1/2 cup sugar, egg, salt, peppermint extract, and food coloring (if you’re using it). Gently stir in the candy.
Spoon the cream cheese gently on top of the brownie batter; then use a knife to swirl it around gently.
Bake the brownies until they just start to brown on the very edges (30 to 35 minutes). Remove them from the oven.
After 5 to 10 minutes loosen the edges of the parchment paper or foil. Cool completely before cutting and serving.
Makes about 2 dozen brownies, depending on how large you cut them.
We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

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Mexican Chicken Pizza

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


My family and I were looking for something simple to make and eat while trimming our Christmas tree—and then Erin Cosby Idehenre posted a picture on Facebook of a pizza she had just made!
Erin is the great-granddaughter of Mary Parker (a.k.a. Gam), the late matriarch of my Hawley, Massachusetts, neighborhood. So we’re sort of related.
A multitalented young woman, Erin has two spirited little daughters, five-year-old Paige and five-month-old Mina, and a darling marine husband, Azi.
(I may be predisposed toward Azi because we met at a family event at which everyone was singing. When he heard my voice he asked whether I was an opera singer. Some people might say this indicates that he doesn’t know a lot about music. I say it indicates that he’s insightful!)
Erin’s picture of her creation looked so good that I had to make the pizza. She gave me the basic outlines, and I adapted a few things as is my wont.
My family was skeptical of the pizza’s original name, Chicken Taco Pizza. So I changed it to Mexican Chicken Pizza. (Sorry, Erin! You’re still a great cook!) The pizza isn’t really Mexican since Erin lives in North Carolina and I live in Massachusetts, but it is influenced by Mexican cuisine.
You’ll note that the recipe makes two pizzas. You may make two and freeze one, cut the ingredients in half, or use the ingredients listed and just pile them on a bit thicker.
You may also add to the pizza as you like. I was feeding a small child and didn’t want to get too spicy, but adults might like jalapeños on the thing.
However you make it, the recipe is a winner. We’re thinking of making it again Christmas Eve (and maybe even New Year’s Eve with leftover Christmas turkey!). It’s simple, tasty, and satisfying.
We’re confident that Santa will enjoy the piece we plan to leave out for him. No coal for us this year!
Left to right: Paige, Azi, Erin, and Baby Mina
Left to right: Paige, Azi, Erin, and Baby Mina
for the crust:
2 1-pound packages of commercial pizza dough (make your own if you want to; I got lazy)
for the black beans:
extra-virgin olive oil as need for sautéing
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
several turns of the pepper grinder
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 15-ounce can black beans (either with liquid or partly drained, depending on how moist you like your pizza)
for the chicken:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seed
for assembly:
the black bean mixture above
12 ounces shredded cheese (a mixture of Monterey Jack and cheddar works well)
the chicken mixture above
1 7-ounce can chopped green chiles
1 6-ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained and chopped into little rings
optional garnishes:
salsa fresca (or jarred salsa if fresh is unavailable)
sour cream
guacamole (we didn’t have it and thus didn’t use it, but it would be good!)
minced fresh cilantro
Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.
While the oven is preheating do the quick cooking of the beans and the chicken.
Start with the bean mixture. In a 2-quart saucepan with a fairly wide bottom (so you can start by sautéing) heat a splash of oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Throw in the onion and garlic pieces, and sauté them for a couple of minutes to release their aroma and juices. Add the seasonings and stir for a minute; then stir in the stock and beans.
Bring the bean mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes—until the seasonings have mellowed a little and some of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside, and move on to the chicken mixture.
In a small frying pan over medium heat bring 1/4 cup chicken stock to a boil. Throw in the chicken, chili powder, and cumin, and cook for a minute or two, stirring. The seasonings should be well distributed throughout the chicken, and most of the stock should have evaporated. Set this mixture aside as well.
Next, roll and/or stretch each piece of pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan). Use a little flour to help with this if necessary.

shaping doughweb

Spray your pans lightly with cooking spray and oil them even more lightly. Place the dough on the pans.
Divide the bean mixture between the two pizzas, and use a spatula to spread it almost to the edges of the pizzas. Sprinkle the cheese on next, followed by the chicken, green chiles, and olives.
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven (old) this took 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the garnishes on bowls at the table so people can help themselves. (Erin put them on herself before serving the pizza; you may also do this.)
Makes 2 pizzas.
The last piece of pizza looked lonely. Fortunately, it didn't have to wait long to be eaten!

The last piece of pizza looked lonely. Fortunately, it didn't have to wait long to be eaten!

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Introducing: The Twelve Cookies of Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2009
I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

I'm getting ready to fill my cookie tin!

Welcome to a new monthly feature of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.
Nothing says “Christmas” like a plate of cookies, preferably accompanied by a glass of crisp cold milk or a mug of steaming hot cocoa.
After all, we wouldn’t give Santa anything less than our best.
A few days ago I came up with the idea of doing a series called “The Twelve Cookies of Christmas.”
Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy or the waistline necessary to make (and perhaps consume) twelve different kinds of cookies between now and December 25, 2009.
So I’m aiming for Christmas 2010.
Once a month from now until next December I plan to post a Christmas cookie recipe. When December rolls along the twelve cookies will all be in place. (You’ll have to supply the milk and cocoa yourselves.)
I hope readers and friends will submit their favorite cookies as the months roll by.
My “Partridge in a Pear Tree” cookie comes from Marcia Powell of Norwalk, Connecticut.
Marcia’s cranberry lemon cookies are unusual because their base is a cake mix. She writes that she and her grandchildren Allison and Cooper adapted the recipe from one in The Cake Mix Bible.
The cookies’ yellow-and-red color is striking. Their flavor is sophisticated enough for adults but sweet enough for kids. My nephew Michael and his friend Carson loved them.
I have a feeling I’m going to try them with orange cake mix and peel next………. Yum!
Marcia Powell’s Cranberry Lemon Cookies
1 package lemon cake mix (According to Marcia, The Cake Mix Bible calls for for Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Lemon Cake Mix. She has also used a Shop Rite mix)
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, melted (Marcia uses vegetable oil, but I used butter for flavor)
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups (half of a 12-ounce bag) cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with silicone or parchment. (Marcia actually uses an ungreased cookie sheet, but my cookie sheets are old, and I tend to be paranoid about sticking.)
In a large bowl combine the cake mix and melted butter. Stir in the eggs, followed by the lemon peel and the cranberries.
Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoons onto the baking sheets. You may also make them larger—up to a tablespoon. Mine were about 2 teaspoons.
Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn light golden brown.
Cool the cookies for 1 minute on their baking sheets; then remove them to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes 20 to 48 cookies, depending on how large yours are.
Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

Carson was happy to help test the cookies.

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Blues in the Night

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009


Johnny Mercer was born 100 years ago tomorrow, on November 18, 1909. A statue of the lyricist will be unveiled in his hometown, Savannah Georgia, on his birthday.
Tributes have been going on all year and will continue, including my own show “Blues in the Night,” scheduled for Friday evening, November 20. (I may just have mentioned it before!)
Alice Parker and I named our program “Blues in the Night” after one of Mercer’s best known musical creations.
“Blues” made its debut in a 1941 Warner Bros. film that was named after the song as soon as the producers heard it and realized what a musical hit they had on their hands.
The film itself, which recently aired on Turner Classic Movies, is peculiar to say the least.
It recounts the adventures of a small group of jazz musicians, including the dour Richard Whorf, the future film director Elia Kazan, and the always over-the-top Jack Carson.
These tunesters roam around the country trying to make a living being true to themselves as artists by playing music that is authentically American and bluesy.
They are inspired while sitting in a jail cell after a fight with a bar patron who wanted them to play less exalted music.  As they ponder their future an African-American in a nearby cell (it’s a segregated jail) starts intoning,
My mama done tol’ me, when I was in knee highs,
My mama done tol’ me, “Son,
“A woman’ll sweet talk and give you the big eye,
“But when the sweet talkin’s done, a woman’s a two-face,
“A worrisome thing who’ll leave you to sing
“The Blues in the Night……”
The musicians immediately vow to run out and create the sort of authentic American folk jazz they have just heard.
Of course, one might think they would start by hiring the talented singer to whom they have just listened.  Instead, they team up with Priscilla Lane. She’s pretty, but she’s a musical lightweight. 
The film continues to defy expectations by throwing in assorted genres (it’s a musical, it’s a romance, it’s a gangster movie) and leaving plot lines dangling.
What looks like an incipient love interested between Lane and Whorf disappears. The rather pale musician who coughs a lot early in the film, who would end up dying of consumption in a normal Hollywood movie, loses his cough with no explanation.
The Bad Girl (Betty Field) who vamps half the male cast has about as much sex appeal as a flounder so the plot twists about her strong hold on men’s hearts and minds are rendered completely unbelievable. And so forth.
What shines in the movie–and haunts the soundtrack–is “Blues in the Night.” Happily, no one expected Priscilla Lane to sing this rather challenging song. It is repeated mostly instrumentally through the film, and it makes the story more moving than it would otherwise be.
Watching the film it was hard for me to believe that before it came out “Blues in the Night” didn’t exist. When they wrote it, Mercer and composer Harold Arlen created that rare thing, a song that sounds as though it has been around forever–as though it has sprung organically from ordinary people’s real lives.
More than the box cars and jail sets in which the actors pose, “Blues” evokes the material conditions of working Americans just coming out of the Great Depression.
And more than any emotions expressed by this not very exciting cast (the best actors are in minor roles) the song expresses love and loss, humor and pathos–the very soul of the blues.
It’s not really in my ideal repertoire. Like Priscilla Lane I’m a lightweight singer. But I can’t resist its siren call.
Please sing it tomorrow in honor of Johnny Mercer’s birthday. If you feel a little lightweight, here’s a recipe to give you some substance.
It was invented by Debra Kozikowski of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Deb is a political activist and blogger who has recently launched her own food blog, The Other Woman Cooks. She won a contest sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council with this blueberry barbecue sauce. 
Here’s the link to Deb’s original post. As you can see, she is an avid fan of picking your own berries in season, although she did tell me I could use frozen berries for this recipe!
Debby marinated pork or chicken in the sauce and then grilled the meat, basting with the sauce. My grilling season is over so I browned medallions of pork tenderloin and baked them in the barbecue sauce (and just a little water) at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, uncovering them for the last few minutes.
I think you could probably use the sauce interchangeably with regular barbecue sauce. Like “Blues in the Night” it combines sweetness and heat in surprising fashion.
Deb’s “Blues in the Night” Barbecue Sauce

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon chili powder (I made this heaping)
1 teaspoon black pepper (I ground about 15 times)
1/2 teaspoon salt (Deb didn’t include this, but I thought it enhanced the flavors)
1/2 cup water


Bring all the ingredients to a low boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened and chunky. Deb said this took 10 to 15 minutes; for me it took about 20 because when my frozen blueberries defrosted they were pretty wet.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce.



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