Journal entries from July 2015

From China with Love, Circa 1951


You don't think about Americans eating - much less cooking - sophisticated Chinese fare in the fifties. So I was truly surprised to find recipes for an entire Chinese banquet in this issue - Bird's Nest Consomme, Shark's Fin, Pheasant, Bamboo Shoots, Wined Kinghwa Ham.  And yes, there were even a few recipes for tofu. And here they are...



I made the tofu last night (reduced the oil to a single tablespoon, added more garlic, ginger and scallions) and served it over rice. It was a perfect little meal for a hot night. Fresh and simple, like eating clouds.   

But there are, in fact, many fascinating recipes in this issue - for French, Italian and even German dishes.  I'll be posting a few more in the days to come. 


More Vintage Fritos Recipes

Last week's vintage Fritos recipes were such a hit that I went trolling through old issues of Gourmet, looking for more.  Here, from the September 1951 issue, are a couple of gems.




Tomorrow, a few truly surprising Chinese recipes from that issue.  They're remarkable for the time - although I think I'll skip the recipes for bird's nest and shark's fin. 


Remember Pousse Cafes?


I certainly do. When I was a cocktail waitress, conventioneers loved to come into the lounge I worked in and order pousse cafes all around.  This was a nightmare for the bartender, who had to make the things - but more of a nightmare for the waitress, who had to carry them, very carefully, across the dining room, with a tableful of drunks hoping that you'd trip.  They tasted terrible too - sticky sweet.

But they were very pretty.  And I never knew that this particular contraption even existed:



Vintage Dal, Lasagna and a Great Old Grill


It's September 1960, and Gourmet has a very good piece about growing up in South America - complete with recipes for empanadas that sound very good. But that recipe also has a "Chilean paella" - pictured on the cover - which is kind of a mess of a recipe. All you need to see are those canned olive-embellished artichoke hearts to know you don't want to try this one.

But a few recipes in the issue sound great - and are rather avant garde for the time. Consider this recipe for Dal (although you might want to think twice about using chili powder, and toss in a few freshly ground Indian spices instead).



Then there's this recipe, which stunned me.  Homemade pasta? In 1960?


And just for fun, an ad. This cast-iron, all-purpose smoker, grill and broiler apparently had a rotisserie inside.  Looks fantastic. If this appeals to you, there's a vintage model for sale on Ebay for a mere $850.



Very Likable Lamb


Romney Sheep

Went into The Meat Market in Great Barrington the other day, in search of inspiration, and spied a very lean-looking leg of lamb.

"It's a Romney," said the butcher.  "We don't get them very often."

"What's different about that breed?" I wondered.

Sheep, he explained, are divided into two categories: wool sheep and meat sheep.  Romney, apparently, are the exception. They have excellent wool - and tasty meat.

Not sure about the wool part, but I can attest that this was the most delicious lamb I've ever cooked. The meat is very mild, without a hint of that gaminess so many people find objectionable.  

I love lamb. I especially love leg of lamb for dinner parties because it's the most forgiving cut of meat- delicious no matter how much (or little) you cook it.  Unlike beef, which is, in my opinion, hardly worth eating unless it's rare, lamb is delicious in every state from rare to well done.  You can put it in the oven with no worries. I always cook lamb with rosemary and garlic, so it makes the house fantastically fragrant as it cooks. 

Now that I've discovered Romney lamb, I've got a problem; when am I ever going to find more?


Two (Old) Recipes and One (Hilarious) Ad


It's July 1960, but this couple doesn't seem to realize they've left the fifties behind.  Another interesting note: nearly all the ads in this issue of Gourmet are for liquor of some sort.

Little surprise then, that the recipes tend to be rather boozy.  Here are two:






A Little Taste of 1960


 The fifties were over; it was the first summer of the new decade, and what were New Yorkers dreaming of?  An all-inclusive trip to Hawaii, which could be had, airfare and hotel included, for less than $800.  How times change!


To prepare you for that trip, the editors kindly threw in a recipe for the  kind of Chinese shrimp toast you might encounter in Waikiki.  (Gourmet of the era seemed quite enamored of MSG, but I'd skip it.)


Not your cup of tea?  How about some savory summer pancakes? This all-American recipe sounds quite intriguing; I've never seen one like it. 


But maybe you'd prefer a drink?  Go outside, snip some herbs, and make yourself a potent Bloody Mary. (There's that MSG again....)




How to Store Basil


If you're tired of opening your refrigerator and finding that the basil you bought two days ago has wilted into a sludgy black mess, take a look at the basil above.  I bought it at the farmers market three weeks ago.

"Treat it like flowers," said the young woman I bought my bunch from.  "Just put it in a jar of water."

"And put the jar in the refrigerator, right?" That's how I've always stored it.

She shook her head.  "Nope. Just put it on the counter and leave it there.  You'll be surprised how long it lasts."

For weeks now, I've been surprised.  The flavor? Still powerful, still green, still pesto-perfect.


A Couple of Vintage Gems


It's August 1978, and inquiring minds want to know about roasted candied tomatoes.  It is, they tell the magazine, a recipe they haven't tasted for fifty years.  Can the editors help?

It's a dish I've never tasted at all - and it sounds interesting. So here you have it,  a new recipe for your tomato repertoire.



If that doesn't float your boat, how about a classic recipe for a deep dish blueberry pie with a lard crust? We don't see lard crusts often enough, so here, from an article cleverly entitled "Summer Fruit Desserts" is a pie from the past. 






Old Fashioned Fritos


This is the cover of Gourmet from April of 1951.  It's a fascinating issue that makes you cringe as it tells you a great deal about where America was in the middle of the last century.

Samuel Chamberlin makes another stop on his tour of France:  "The Epicure of Savoy enjoys his sumptuous fare against the mightiest backdrop in Europe." 

Robert P. Tristram Coffin extols the joys of rural life in Maine with an essay on the quahaug. 

There's an illustrated  dictionary of cigar smoking. 

And an absolutely appalling piece where a writer touring the south imagines a slave coming back from the dead to cook for her.  

There are ads for Metaxa (can you still buy the Greek liqueur?), an article about  an electric tray, "nobly dedicated to prove a boon to buffets in a dozen cozy capacities," and of course, the usual introduction of the latest Miss Rheingold, who seems uncharacteristically elegant.


And then there is this.  Frito recipes in Gourmet!



"A Cheery Way with the Cherry"


Gourmet, July 1977

Not quite sure how I feel about this.  This article, entitled simply "Cherries" opens with the picture above.  They're sour cherries.  And yet every single one of the "cheery ways with the cherry" calls for sweet cherries.  Kind of a disappointment. But I've always had a soft spot for upside down cakes, so I'm going to try making the upside down cherry cake, below.  Only I'm going to use sour cherries. ( I'm not planning to change the amount of sugar - it looks sweet enough.)

 I'll let you know how it turns out. 



The cover on this issue, in case you're interested.  As you can plainly see, part of it has disappeared.




My Dinner at Stone Barns



I'm opening with these two images because, considered together, they explain so much about the remarkable restaurant that is Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

The eggplant is simply that - an entire eggplant, charred into softness and served naked. Take the time to savor the flavors and you rediscover eggplant.  Eggplants are amiable creatures, so willing to take a back seat to other ingredients that they're rarely allowed a starring role. Listening to an eggplant speak with its own voice is like meeting it for the first time. The texture is creamy, the flavor clean and strong with a decided edge.

Caviar on cucumber, on the other hand, is culinary thinking in an entirely different direction.  The combination reminded me, in many ways, of Joel Robuchon's famous pairing of caviar and cauliflower.  The classic caviar dishes- blini, eggs, pasta - all frame the fish roe so that it stands stubbornly alone. Caviar wants to be the star, but when it encounters certain vegetables (cauliflower, cucumber), it finally deigns to relinquish its diva role and join the cast. What sets this dish apart from Robuchon's is that it is not tricked out with butter and cream; the cucumbers need no help.  (That cream on top was certainly very nice, but it was definitely not necessary.) 

As for those cucumbers.... 

We arrived at the restaurant when the sun was still high in the sky.  It's good to get here early so you have time to wander the gardens and experience the fading of the light. As night falls stars dapple the sky and the Big Dipper rises until it is right above the  beautiful barns that once housed Rockefeller’s pampered cattle. 

Walking the fields we encountered Mike Mazourek, a plant geneticist from Cornell, who's attempting to breed a yellow cucumber resistant to the disease now threatening commercial crops.  This is Mike with his Silver Slicer cucumber.


and this is Dan Barber testing the cucumber's sweetness with a brixometer (4.19).  (The strawberries in the next field tested about the same.)


And here is the second course of our dinner. Mike’s cucumbers, simply sliced and so sweet  I was reminded that cucumbers belong to the melon family. 


Our dinner lasted almost 5 hours, and I'm not going to give you a dish by dish rundown. Here, however, are the highlights: 

A little edible garden


Fermented asparagus with cattail pollen. Asparagus as you have never known it.  



Baby squash with its blossom:


A squash sweet enough to eat like an apple:


Milkweed juice


Green chick peas - so remarkably sweet and soft you wonder why we only eat them dried.  A revelation.



Peas stuffed with pistachios.  There was something fermented in there, turning these into little surprise packages, flavor bombs that exploded when you took a bite. 


Foraged greens - purslane, lambs quarters, dandelion.... with charcoal mayonnaise


 Fennel salami and pickled grapes


Gazpacho julep: hiding beneath that ball of ice was the coolest, most refreshing gazpacho. 


Pluots and cheese: savory fruit.


Scorched leeks


Culatello, which was served with little glasses of cantaloupe essence. A new take on prosciutto and melon. The intensity of the cantaloupe juice jolted the cured meat into an entirely unexpected sweetness. 


Beans with squash blossom pesto - 


Various pieces of chicken, surrounded by what a chicken eats as it hunts and pecks.  Each little morsel was juicy and flavorful, but it was that foot that sent the dish into the stratosphere. (Look for the starfish  on the side of the plate. ) A delicious explosion of crunch, crackle and flavor,  it made me wonder about other ways with chicken feet. 


There was so much more - little daikon "tacos" filled with blue fish and pork. Bread with three different butters.  Baby kohlrabi. Roasted garlic. The sweetest beet I've ever met. And finally an entire parade of fruit and vegetable desserts.

The finale was this absolutely irresistible  apricot kouign amann. Ending with a pastry that's all butter, sugar, artifice and crunch underscored how resolutely simple the meal had been. Mostly vegetables; many of them raw.  And yet it was a thrilling circus of new flavors. 


Driving home (late at night, when there's no traffic it’s only about twenty minutes to Manhattan), I asked myself what, exactly, I want from a restaurant.  Because this was a meal that challenged every notion most of us  have about what a fancy meal can be. 

Well, not every notion.  The service is stunning.  Thoughtful. Attentive. Just friendly enough. The wine list is fascinating. And the room is beautiful and extremely peaceful. 

But the food does not resemble that of any other restaurant. As the evening ended Dan came out with a worried look on his face. "Was it enough?  Do you need a steak or something?" If we'd said yes, I'm sure a big piece of pork or lamb would have instantly appeared.

But that would have ruined everything. For almost five hours I'd been stimulated and thrilled. I often leave a long restaurant meal with the guilty sense that I've just consumed much more than my share of the world's protein. Now I floated out the door with the lightest feeling - and the sense that I'd had a small taste of the future.





A Great Little Farm Shop


This is Mimi Beaven, who runs the coolest little farm shop, Made in Ghent.

Great bread.  Fantastically beautiful eggs from the chickens that are pecking just outside the door. Pork from the pigs that live in the woods behind the farm, eating nut and berries.  Chicken stock. Cookies...

It's a little daunting, because the farm is so beautiful, the shop is so perfectly rustic, and everything looks and smells so good you end up buying everything.

Or at least I did.  Can't wait to cook those black-foot chickens!

Incidentally, don't miss Art Omi, which is just down the road. It's a wonderful place to wander the fields, looking at sculpture.  


Sweet Carolines


Before we get to those elusive carolines, the cured scrod, as promised yesterday.  Here they are in all their glory on the Fourth of July buffet.  And here, as promised, the recipe:





And now, those carolines....


According to Larousse, a caroline is a small eclair. Why didn't I know that?  Gourmet's tiny eclairs are filled with cocktail franks and sauerkraut.  Hard to think of anything sillier or more adorable....

Here, for a day when you've got nothing better to do than concoct miniature food, is the recipe.




IMG_5923 IMG_5924


Today's Vintage Recipe is Very Surprising


You will instantly notice a change from the past couple of covers: we've jumped to 1982, and new possibilities in printing. Say farewell to illustrated covers as we enter the age of photography.

But this pretty cover hides some serious surprises; the food inside is not nearly as docile and ladylike as the photograph would lead you to believe.  I sat staring at this menu for the fourth of July, trying to imagine a modern magazine (other than Lucky Peach) brave enough to list some of these recipes:


Smoked tongue and goat cheese triangles?  When was the last time you saw a recipe for tongue in a contemporary publication?  As for the now-ubiquitous goat cheese, the first American goat cheese (made by Laurie Chenel in Napa), appeared a mere three years before this issue was published, so it was an extremely arcane ingredient.  Who would believe that the magazine was advocating raw fish in 1982? And finally, what on earth is a "Caroline"?

Here are those intriguing little tongue tidbits:


And here's the (not exactly uncomplicated) recipe:





Tomorrow we'll look into that cured scrod recipe, and try to solve the mystery of "caroline."  (Trust me, those carolines are cute.) 

But for now, another surprising recipe from this issue.  Who would have suspected that thirty-five years ago Gourmet was publishing tofu recipes?  It came, incidentally, from an Atlanta restaurant called Eat Your Vegetables. 




A Picnic Menu from Old Gourmet, 1978


I've been reading through the July issues in the box of old magazines that arrived yesterday, a bit surprised by the lack of strict seasonality. July 1971, for instance, has an insane recipe from the Troisgros brothers for a Gratin Forezien containing a pound of potatoes and more than two cups of cream.  That issue also has ham with port and mushroom sauce, a cranberry soup (cranberries in July?) and a lamb and cabbage casserole.  (There is also, I must admit, a long and splendid James Beard article simply entitled "Fruits.")

July 1978, however, is so extremely seasonal it was difficult to choose a single recipe. So I'm offering a few of the interesting (given the date) recipes from the centerfold picnic.  Hummus. Ceviche. And this rather mad stuffed celery.



Here's that celery:




And for good measure, here's the magazine's recipe for scallop seviche. What intrigues me is the inclusion of fresh coriander - cilantro - in a 1978 recipe.  It was, for the time, an extremely arcane ingredient.  I'd never even seen fresh cilantro until I moved to California in 1973, and I'd bet that most people on the east coast had never even heard of it. 





Great Old Magazines


A carton has just arrived on my doorstep.  When I opened it I discovered that the wonderful people at Mclean & Eakin, a truly great bookstore in Petoskey, Michigan, had sent me armfuls of old Gourmet Magazines. I can hardly think of a better way to spend the morning.

I started with this issue, from July of 1958.  There are some fantastic articles in here, including a memoir by Lillian Langseth-Christensen (one of our best writers on Viennese food), and a lobster primer by Louis Diat, Gourmet's resident chef (in a previous life he was the creator of Vichysoisse).

There are also a few risible moments in the issue.  A reader writes to beg for a recipe for garlic soup, which he enjoyed in Madrid and the editors respond by telling him to brown 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil, add 2 quarts of hot stock and boil for 5 minutes. He is then to add 6 slices of toasted bread until it is soaked.  Then - this is the good part - he is meant to remove the garlic. After that he divides the broth-soaked toast between 6 bowls and tops each with a poached egg. In the fifties Americans were very, very afraid of garlic.

More to my liking is this very lovely recipe for cold watercress soup.  Perfect for this sultry summer day. (I'm planning to use small onions - we're experiencing a moment of serious onion inflation - and put it all into the food processor instead of a sieve. Times change. )


Just for fun, I'm throwing in the back cover.  Miss Rheingold was a great New York fixture; when I was small the candidates' photos were posted in the subway, and we all got to vote.  It was, for me, one of the highlights of riding the IRT.




Sweet and Simple: An Orange Cake


I'm a butter person; a world without butter would be a very dreary place.  But Michael keeps asking me to bake cakes that use oil instead of butter, so here's another dairy-free cake.

What I like is it's sheer simplicity; this is about as basic - and easy - as they come.  But one warning: don't open the oven too early.  This cake will fall if provoked.  

Preheat the oven to  350°. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.

Gently remove the zest from two oranges.  Squeeze one of them - or more if you've got stingy oranges - to get a half cup of juice. 

Beat 4 eggs with a cup and a half of sugar for about five minutes in a stand mixture, until it is quite thick. Slowly beat in a half cup of vegetable oil. Add the orange zest.

While that's mixing, whisk 4 teaspoons of baking powder into 2 cups of cake flour.  Whisk in a half teaspoon of salt.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, then carefully stir in the orange juice and a teaspoon of vanilla until smooth.  

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.




Tomato Season!


Someone recently asked me to list favorite cookbooks, and this is the first one that came to mind.


Edouard de Pomiane was a scientist, a writer and one of the world's greatest demystifiers of the cooking process. He was also, at least judging from his writing and radio programs, a fascinating man with a wicked sense of humor.  I'm sorry so few of his books have been translated into English.

Cooking in Ten Minutes is pretty much the opposite of its American counterpart, The I Hate to Cook Book.  Pomiane shows you how to make good food from fresh ingredients in very little time with a minimum of fuss.  Among his more useful ideas is the notion of boiling potatoes when you have the time to do it and leaving them in the refrigerator. When hunger hits he has a number of suggestions for fast recipes that use them.

Reading Pomiane is always a joy.  I recently came upon this little gem, which I plan to serve tonight for dinner.

De Pomiane’s Tomates a la Creme 

Take 6 tomatoes. Cut them in halves.  Melt a  lump of butter in a frying pan, put in the tomatoes, cut side down, and puncture the tops with a sharp knife.  Let them cook for 5 minutes.

Turn them over, and sprinkle with salt and cook for ten more minutes.  Turn them again so that the juice spread through the pan.  Turn the tomatoes cut side up again.

Add 3 ounces of heavy cream.  Mix it with the juices.  As soon as it bubbles, slip the tomatoes and the sauce into a hot dish. Serve very hot. 


If you're interested in de Pomiane, you'll also want to know about this book, Cooking with Pomiane, with its great introduction by Elizabeth David.



Things I Love: Just Say Howda


If there's a cheese that's easier to love than aged Gouda, I have yet to encounter it.  It has such a sweet seductive flavor and soft fudgy texture that it practically purrs.  This L'Amuse Signature Gouda is hand-aged by affineur Betty Koster in her cheese shop in Santpoort-Noord. 

Think butterscotch, think caramel, think irresistible. It has a resonant flavor that goes on and on, echoing long after the cheese itself has vanished. I have never met anyone who didn't like it.

Incidentally, if you were in Holland you'd pronounce this cheese HOWda. 


Two Deliciously Easy Asian Noodle Dishes



These days when I ask Michael what he wants for dinner he's most likely to say "that Chinese pasta please."  

I'm always happy to oblige. This is just about the easiest meal I make - and if you're the sort of person who finds yourself ordering in from Chinese restaurants, you should become acquainted.  The ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and if you've got some pork in the freezer, you can have dinner on the table long before the delivery man would ring the bell.  Ten minutes at most.

Here's the recipe:

Spicy Pork Chinese Noodles

Cook a half pound of Chinese noodles (in a pinch use dried egg noodles or spaghetti) until al dente, drain, toss with a bit of  peanut oil and set aside.

Mince fresh, peeled ginger until you have a couple of tablespoons (it should be about a 2 inch long piece). 

Chop 2 scallions.

Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into 2 1/2 tablespoons of Chinese hot bean paste with garlic.  Michael doesn't like food very spicy, so I substitute a tablespoon of plain bean paste for some of the hotter stuff.  Set aside. 

Heat a wok until a drop of water skitters across the surface.  Add a tablespoon of oil, toss in the ginger and stir fry for about half a minute, until the fragrance is hovering over the wok.

Add a half pound of ground pork and stir fry until all traces of pink have disappeared.  Add the bean sauce mixture and a splash of water;  cook and stir for about 2 minutes. 

Stir in the scallions and noodles, and quickly toss.  Add a drop of sesame oil and turn out onto a platter.

Serves 2.


I've had this strange craving for squid lately, so when I saw some in the market yesterday, I pounced upon it.  At home I made this easy pasta, adapted from Bruce Cost's Big Bowl cookbook. Together, the two noodle dishes made an extremely satisfying meal.  

Noodles with Squid and Black Beans

1/2 pound squid

1/2 pound Chinese noodles


3 tablespoons chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

4 tablespoons shredded ginger

4 sliced scallions

1 jalapeno, shredded

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 1/2 teaspoons fermented soy beans (Chinese salted black beans)

2 tablespoons dry sherry

splash sesame oil

Separate the squid into tentacles and bodies, and cut the bodies into 1 inch rings.  Toss them into a pot of  boiling water for about 30 seconds, then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, rinse again and set aside.

Cook the Chinese noodles for about 3 minutes.  (Again, if you can't find Chinese noodles, plain spaghetti or egg noodles can step in.)  Drain, refresh with cold water, then toss them with a teaspoon of oil and set aside.

Mix chicken stock, salt, sugar, oyster sauce and light soy. Set aside. 

Heat a wok or heavy saute pan.  Slick with oil. Add the ginger, scallions, chile pepper, garlic and black beans.  Stir until fragrant.  Add the liquid mixture and cook for a minute.  Toss in noodles and toss for another minute or two. Add the squid and the sherry, toss again, splash in the sesame oil and serve. 

Serves 2.


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About this journal
Where am I eating? What's for dinner tonight? And what books have I been reading? For a look at what's going on in my life lately, take a look at this journal, which I try to update on a regular basis.