Food in the Northwest and Beyond

 

Mama, there’s a baby growing in your belly. There’s not a baby in my belly, we’re going to need to go to the grocery store and get one.

-The Toddler

The Blog is on Hiatus for Pregnancy.

More info on Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

While The Toddler has been under the weather and Mardi Gras shenanigans have been underway, I’ve taken a break from vintage food and skewed toward trying some new low-budget recipes instead. Perfect timing for Lenten pescetarians! Above are fish tostadas with a pineapple salsa and navy beans from Melissa d’Arabian, and I generally like her recipes.
But…
This one reads like a nightmare. I think she’s prone to underestimating cook times, here it’s both egregious and disorderly. Below is my rewrite and I hope you try this one, it’s yummy!
If you’re just killing time let’s talk about some other typical low budget recipe offenses: singular ingredients and servings. If you really want to maximize your budget efforts you need to be really careful to overlap ingredients, like the white wine called for in this recipe, or the half cup of purple cabbage, or part of a red onion and part of a yellow (below, I used one yellow below instead). 
Then we have servings, almost always 4, which is a stupendous conundrum with 2 adults and a little one. It always leaves just enough to maybe fill out part of a lunch for 1.5 of us. Sure, once you’re familiar enough with the recipe you can tweak the quantity up a little, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an ongoing source of refrigerator detritus. 
Fish Tostadas with Pineapple Salsa and White Beans(serves 4)
IngredientsFish:1 lime, zested and juiced, plus lime wedges for garnish2 cloves garlic, minced2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for baking sheetKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper1 lb white fish fillets, like tilapia, flounder, sole, or cod, skin discarded and cut into finger-sized pieces
Tortillas:1/4 cup vegetable oil10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage
Sauteed White Beans: 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil1/2 white or yellow onion, finely choppedKosher salt1 clove garlic, minced1 tsp ground cumin1/2 c white wine1 can navy beans2 tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)Freshly ground black pepper
Pineapple and Avocado Salsa1 (14-ounce) can sliced pineapple in juice, drained, chopped and juices reserved1 tbs lime juice1 tbs honey1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil1 small jalapeno, seeds removed and dicedKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper1/2 onion, finely chopped1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh cubed2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
Directions
Pineapple and Avocado Salsa:
1. In a medium bowl mix 2 tbs of the reserved pineapple juice with the lime juice, honey, oil and jalapeno. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
2. Add the pineapple and onion. 
3. Fold in the avocado and cilantro and let rest on the counter while you prep the rest (15 minutes minimum).
Fish:
1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, zest, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
2. Put the fish in a baking dish and pour the marinade on top. Marinate for no more than 30 minutes. (Prep the white beans now) 
3. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler or grill. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. 
4. Remove the fish from the marinade and arrange on the baking sheet, making sure to leave space between the pieces. Broil until just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes.
White Beans: 
1. In a small pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onion with a pinch of salt and saute until soft. 
2. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat and add the white wine.
3. Cook until the wine has reduced by half. Stir in the beans and oregano and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Tortillas: 
1. While the white beans are going and the fish is marinating, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a medium pan. 
2. Fry the corn tortillas, 1 at a time, just until crisp, flipping halfway through to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels and salt while still hot.
To assemble the tostadas: Layer each tostada first with Sauteed White Beans, then the fish. Top with the shredded cabbage and Pineapple and Avocado Salsa. 

While The Toddler has been under the weather and Mardi Gras shenanigans have been underway, I’ve taken a break from vintage food and skewed toward trying some new low-budget recipes instead. Perfect timing for Lenten pescetarians! Above are fish tostadas with a pineapple salsa and navy beans from Melissa d’Arabian, and I generally like her recipes.

But…

This one reads like a nightmare. I think she’s prone to underestimating cook times, here it’s both egregious and disorderly. Below is my rewrite and I hope you try this one, it’s yummy!

If you’re just killing time let’s talk about some other typical low budget recipe offenses: singular ingredients and servings. If you really want to maximize your budget efforts you need to be really careful to overlap ingredients, like the white wine called for in this recipe, or the half cup of purple cabbage, or part of a red onion and part of a yellow (below, I used one yellow below instead). 

Then we have servings, almost always 4, which is a stupendous conundrum with 2 adults and a little one. It always leaves just enough to maybe fill out part of a lunch for 1.5 of us. Sure, once you’re familiar enough with the recipe you can tweak the quantity up a little, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an ongoing source of refrigerator detritus. 

Fish Tostadas with Pineapple Salsa and White Beans
(serves 4)

Ingredients
Fish:
1 lime, zested and juiced, plus lime wedges for garnish
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for baking sheet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb white fish fillets, like tilapia, flounder, sole, or cod, skin discarded and cut into finger-sized pieces

Tortillas:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage

Sauteed White Beans: 
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c white wine
1 can navy beans
2 tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
Freshly ground black pepper

Pineapple and Avocado Salsa
1 (14-ounce) can sliced pineapple in juice, drained, chopped and juices reserved
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs honey
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 small jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh cubed
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves

Directions

Pineapple and Avocado Salsa:

1. In a medium bowl mix 2 tbs of the reserved pineapple juice with the lime juice, honey, oil and jalapeno. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

2. Add the pineapple and onion. 

3. Fold in the avocado and cilantro and let rest on the counter while you prep the rest (15 minutes minimum).

Fish:

1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, zest, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

2. Put the fish in a baking dish and pour the marinade on top. Marinate for no more than 30 minutes. (Prep the white beans now) 

3. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler or grill. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. 

4. Remove the fish from the marinade and arrange on the baking sheet, making sure to leave space between the pieces. Broil until just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes.

White Beans: 

1. In a small pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onion with a pinch of salt and saute until soft. 

2. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat and add the white wine.

3. Cook until the wine has reduced by half. Stir in the beans and oregano and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Tortillas: 

1. While the white beans are going and the fish is marinating, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a medium pan. 

2. Fry the corn tortillas, 1 at a time, just until crisp, flipping halfway through to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels and salt while still hot.

To assemble the tostadas: Layer each tostada first with Sauteed White Beans, then the fish. Top with the shredded cabbage and Pineapple and Avocado Salsa. 

Made this potato bacon torte to round out a leftover soup supper - yummy! It’s basically potatoes au gratin in a flaky crust. 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/potato-bacon-torte-recipe.html#!

Made this potato bacon torte to round out a leftover soup supper - yummy! It’s basically potatoes au gratin in a flaky crust.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/potato-bacon-torte-recipe.html#!

Sweet Potato Ricotta Fritters

Sorry for the lapse in vintage recipes, The Toddler has been a sickie and that leaves no extra time for bologna and peas in gelatine. 

But sweet potatoes are her favorite, which is just enough reason for me to return to frying.

A little background: I like fried food. I don’t like frying. I don’t have a fryer, it stinks up the house for days, and the sentence “I haven’t started a kitchen fire in at least a year” has direct correlation to the last time I fried. 

Just so you understand it takes a little extra nudge to start up a frying venture. Add in the fact that while I have been really tempted by the idea of sweet potato fritters, most recipes committed some pretty egregious crimes - notably, they used all but a few spoonfuls of multiple ingredients. I hate that about as much as kitchen fires.

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They’re worth it.

Imbued with a fresh sense of purpose and imprecise memories of frying misadventure only the distance of time can bring, I put these together. They’re magical. Crispy outside, the gooey wonder of a hush puppy inside, and that beignet sweetness to boot. Plus, they led to a discussion of Dragon Quest as a cheese-making sim. 

Sweet Potato Ricotta Fritters
(yield approx 3 dozen fritters)

Oil for frying
1 good size peeled sweet potato, cooked (I boiled) and mashed
1 15 oz container whole milk fresh ricotta
1/3 c confectioners’ sugar, a handful more for dusting
1/2 c rounded self rising flour
hearty pinch Kosher salt
half dozen grinds of black pepper

1. Heat a few inches of oil in a deep pot, preferably something heavy like a Dutch Oven. If you have a deep frying thermometer, you’re aiming for 365F.

2. In a mixing bowl combine the potato, ricotta, sugar, salt, pepper and flour til smooth.

3. Add large teaspoons of the batter to the oil, working in batches.* Fry to golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then remove to drain on paper towels. Dust or gently roll in confectioners’ sugar with a sprinkle of salt.

*I did this by putting the batter in a ziplock, snipping a corner off, and squeezing out the potato mix.

Peas and carrots, carrots and peas!

This may seal my fate as a mid-century foodie: I love peas. I love carrots. I love when they get together with butter and garlic (and a bit of dill, as above). 

Peas and carrots, I eat you up! I eat you all up!

Peas and carrots, carrots and peas!

This may seal my fate as a mid-century foodie: I love peas. I love carrots. I love when they get together with butter and garlic (and a bit of dill, as above).

Peas and carrots, I eat you up! I eat you all up!

Lime Cheese Salad

Sarah and Joseph had us for supper last night and invited me to bring along one of the vintage creations (this even after I brought the banana candle “into their home”, as Joseph put it). That’s why they’re getting an above-the-fold mention here, they’re such good sports!

Thus far the recipes on the list have come from cookbooks. This one, I suspect (but can’t be certain), does not. It looks to me like a magazine or back-of-the box recipe, designed to get you to buy Jell-O and legitimize it for your luncheon table as more than dessert. 

image

Also, that image is crazy misleading.

image

They easily used 2-3x as much Jell-O to achieve that picture. Mine looks like something Mario needs fireballs to defeat.

But back to the recipe. 

What tips it over the edge for me into “advertisement” isn’t just the misleading image, but the addition of a seafood salad. Because the cottage cheese and lime Jell-O tastes fine, good really (really!). If you grew up with any Jell-O recipes at all, odds are you had something like this. Sure there’s the funky addition of grated onion, (which I honestly don’t get because it’s in such small quantity it doesn’t have an impact on the flavor), but the seafood is just…why? The makers of Jell-O don’t want to be resigned to dessert. So they waged a brilliant mid-century campaign to become a part of mealtimes, regardless of course. 

Bonus: While I was snapping the pic The Toddler confirmed that it’s impossible to not poke Jell-O:

image

And so I’d like to draw a line here, because I think that may have been the last of the truly mild vintage recipes. Next week will be interesting.

World’s Greatest Pecan Pie

Here it is, the pecan pie of the ages.

At the risk of raining on its ascendant parade, I want to talk about Pecan Pie Problems. Because there are some biggies.

Flavor: I’ve tried the Bourbon Pecan Pies that seem so popular right now, and I just don’t get it. Neither does Adam. It’s all about Bourbon, which is something I like, but not about the sweet creamy goodness of Pecan Pie, which is what I want. So if you want Bourbon Pecan Pie, there’s plenty out there.

Pecan Pieces: This is a personal problem. I like them coarsely ground, Adam likes them barely halved. With differences like these it’s a miracle we’ve lasted this long, eh? I settled on a combo of about half of each…that way neither of us is happy? ;) No, really, I do about 1/3 ground to 2/3 roughly broken up.

Cooktime: Oh sweet mother of unreliability. I would love to say “pop in the oven for X, and then you’ll have a beautiful pie!” I can’t, I just can’t. Every pie I made took longer than the baseline recommendation of 50 minutes and the one above took 95. NINETY. FIVE. MINUTES. I don’t even have a crust ring, folks, there was some seriously artful tin foil construction going on to keep that crust from turning blackened Cajun. My recommendation is to play it safe and cover your pie with foil until you get a sense for how quickly it’s setting up. 

The Filling
(yields enough for one pie)

Sweet Shortcrust

1 c sugar
3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt 
1 c dark corn syrup 
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c salted butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 c pecans (see “Pecan Pieces” above)

Preheat oven to 350F


1. Combine sugars, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract in a bowl.

2. Pour your pecan pieces into the bottom of an unbaked pie crust. 

3. Add the syrup mixture over top, giving a little jiggle to distribute.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Check the pie, if beginning to set go ahead and remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. If still very liquid, leave foil on and bake 30 more minutes before checking again. Pie will only have the tiniest wiggle when done, then remove from oven and cool thoroughly. (See “Cooktime” above)

Sweet Shortcrust

Adam loves pie, and frankly I’m more than a little ambivalent. It’s just not a magical combination for me, “flaky” isn’t something I aspire to in my foodstuffs. 

But then there’s pecan pie, the recipe for which I’ve spent the past month perfecting beyond perfection, until it ascends to a higher plane of dessertification. 

Part of this unrelentingly awesome equation is the crust, and I’ve settled on this sweet shortcrust. I consider myself a pretty middle-of-the-road baker, chemistry has never held much appeal, so I’m more than a little happy with not only the ease of this crust but the very reliable results. 

image

Fluted, pre-bake.

The yield is around 2 lbs, which for me is 2 pie shells, a mini pie, and a handful to shove in my mouth because it tastes so good.

Sweet Shortcrust
(yields about 2 lbs)

3 1/2 c AP flour, plus extra for dusting
1 c confectioner’s sugar
1 c plus 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 lemon, zested*
2 large free-range or organic eggs, beaten
Splash whole milk

*I most often use lemon zest as a bit of flavor in the crust, but just as often for pecan pie I’ll use a splash of Bourbon! 

1. Combine the flour and sugar in a food processor, pulsing a few times.

2. Scatter the cold butter over top, and pulse until it’s a crumbly consistency.

3. Add the lemon zest (or other flavor), eggs and milk then pulse til just combined.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, pat down, wrap tightly in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.**

** Shortcrust shortcut: I usually roll out about half and make my first pie shell at this point, then chill. Just be sure to handle the dough as little as possible.

Jellied Tomato Refresher

I’ve landed in the middle of some weird food territory with this one, a 1974 Weight Watchers recipe. Vintage. Diet. Food. And so, as I imagine many a 1974 dieter before, I was downright cranky after dinner last night when I pulled the gelatinized marvel out of the fridge. 

…And then put it back in the fridge. Dieting successful!

Here I am then, it’s breakfast, and suddenly I’m besieged with concerns about how a jellied tomato refresher sits on an empty stomach. 

image

Hey there, curdled Bloody Mary.

Shown served in a snifter, I rejected the prospect of jellied tomato gobs smacking me in the face before noon (ever?) and opted for a dish and fork. The tomato juice is the main player but there were a couple standouts:

- Worcestershire sauce
- Dehydrated green peppers (That’s a thing??)
- “packet of instant Beef broth and seasoning” (What?!)

This is obviously intended as a diet-friendly Bloody Mary replacement option, but you’re gonna have to be tore up to carry this around a party or (and my heart starts palpitating) serve it to guests.

The Jellied Tomato Refresher hovers in the territory of unaccountable foods. It has the bizarre compulsion of all semi-not-good edibles, singular in its not-quite-goodness: I kept tasting the darn thing. With every bite I was reminded that the beef flavoring is terrible, the Worcestershire sauce makes my tongue curl up on itself, the melt-in-your-mouth consistency defies justification. Then, after a wave of palate-cleansing saliva, I forget. I’m ready for another go, not quite sure anymore what makes it so kinda wrong.

It’s not a drink, it’s not a dish, it’s not real people food. This is the food version of a Civil War surgeon’s tools, morbidly fascinating in its wrongness.

Liver Sausage Pineapple

What this pineapple does next will shock you!

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Not exactly trompe l’oeil, is it? 

Let’s be honest, mine does not resemble either a pineapple or the original picture. Frankly, I’m starting to think that I’m just not that good at this style of cooking, the kind that has me molding braunschweiger around a mason jar and vigorously whisking a mayo-gelatine mix until it can be used as “frosting”. By the time I got to the pineapple top I was really phoning it in.

In my defense, I gelatined and chilled with the best of them today, but five minutes into supper the San Andreas fault line appeared:

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And things didn’t get any better:

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So we’ve introduced a strategic problem with the whimsical pineapple sausage. You have to keep it very chilled, bring it out just as your unsuspecting guests are arriving, and then pray that they eat it quickly. Very quickly.

What will help them along is that despite of a few additions (lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayo) it tastes like liver sausage. I grew up on this sort of thing, it’s long been a sandwich favorite, and I’m going to assume that this is as much a generational as a geographic phenomenon. Born in Cleveland, a wonderful ethnic melting pot with an abundance of Leberwurst, then onto New Orleans, a land rich with homey terrines and rillettes - I love me some forcemeat. 

Which means it isn’t the words “liver”, “sausage”, “pineapple” or even “studded with olives” that have me rankled, it’s that this is an awful abuse of a food I really like. Actually, it’s making that food more terrifying, and I strongly suspect that liver sausage has a bit of a PR problem already.

After supper I helped the precious foodstuffs into a storage container for later consumption, no longer able to suffer the leber’s fruit-shaped indignity

I’m going to assume that the anti-pâté among you aren’t swayed by this presentation, so here’s a bonus for you: the Wurst Melt.

Warm fingerling potato and lentil salad with an egg.

Warm fingerling potato and lentil salad with an egg.

Follow up: this is what happened when I left the relish bowl unattended.

Fancy Hot Dogs

This one is titled “Hot Dog Fondue” in the Buzzfeed list, but it turns out Buzzfeed may not be known for it’s investigative reporting.

The fondue was a separate dish entirely, and these are just creatively sliced hot dogs served over what seems to be potatoes au gratin:

To me, this just looks like an all-American, family-friendly meal idea. Maybe not what I’d think up to serve, but very much reminiscent of my own childhood.

My hot dog standards are perhaps a little lower than in other areas? For example, the bacon-wrapped hot dog, which has been cited as one of the more bizarre applications of bacon, is one of my favorites. 

Like some of the other mid-century notions of presentation, serving it over cheesy potatoes is just kinda…homey? What gives me pause is the idea that a hollowed out tomato is an ideal presentation of relish. There’s insufficient whimsy in a big hunk of a tomato bowl brimming with diced pickle for my tastes.

The dogs cook up faster this way, and I spent most of prep time trying to explain to The Toddler that “hot dogs” is not a meal prepared for overheated canines. Still, when I served it up this went down:

"Oh! It’s not for hot dogs, it’s just brats for us!"

…later…

"So…the hot dogs aren’t comin’ over?"

Peel back those emotional layers with her - relief, anticipation, disappointment, it’s like a tidy metaphor for this whole experiment!

Bonus: Using a fork and knife to eat a hot dog is downright patrician and that’s just how I roll. Right?