Summer Cooler

You don’t know how good buttermilk tastes until you have climbed a mile up a mountainside on a hot day. Despite our lack of hiking shoes, a friend and I had decided to see what Bad Reichenhall, Germany, looked like from Austria. It was 1965 and we were studying conversational German in that small German city. We crossed a footbridge over the creek that marked the border and started up the mountain.

It was an easy walk through open space on the edge of town. There were no signs, fences or guards, but once we had walked over the footbridge, we felt like world travelers. To be honest, Austria was pretty much like Germany, but it was the fourth country I had set foot in, the first three being the USA, Canada and Germany.

While there were no guards, there was someone watching us from a spot several hundred feet above us near a small building in the pasture. We began wondering if it was really wise to walk in someone else’s pasture without permission and briefly considered making a run for it back to the safety of the city. But we were young and confident that we could talk our way through any problem.

Though we were perhaps a bit too confident in our conversational German, we did manage to explain to the old lady overseeing her cows that we were American students at the Goethe Institute who just wanted to enjoy the view of the city from her beautiful pasture. She smiled and told us that we were welcome.

She could see that we were hot and thirsty and asked us if we would like “ein Becher Buttermilch” (a cup of buttermilk). We both said we would. She stood up from the bench she was sitting on, wiped her hands on her apron and went into the shed which we recognized as a spring house. A minute later she came out with two stoneware mugs that must have held a pint each.

How generous of her, we thought, until she said, “Funfzig Pfennig jedes” (fifty cents each). We would have paid more. The buttermilk was cold and delicious, with little bits of butter floating in it. It was so good, in fact, that we made the climb twice more over the next month and had a chance to learn a little about her. Among other things, we learned that she sold her buttermilk to lots of hikers and her butter to a shopkeeper in Salzburg.

Today much of the pasture is covered with a housing development, and hikers who want a glass of buttermilk need to find a different lady on a mountainside.

There are, of course, a few people who say that they don’t like buttermilk. Here is a way to overcome that prejudice. A student from Texas introduced Jerri to this recipe when she was a house fellow in Slichter Hall at the University of Wisconsin. It sounds odd, but it is delicious and refreshing. Here’s what you do.

INGREDIENTS:

Buttermilk
Sherbet

PROCEDURE:

Put two scoops of sherbet in a tall glass. Add ice cold buttermilk. Stir gently with an iced tea spoon. Enjoy like a root beer float with less sugar.

NOTES: Orange and raspberry sherbets are our favorites, but you can use any flavor you like. As an option, serve a scoop of sherbet covered with three or four tablespoons of buttermilk for a light dessert.

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Wild Blackberry Jam

The wild blackberries are small this summer. At least the ones I picked seemed tiny compared to the huge ones I picked as a kid. Those berries were almost as long as my little finger. Of course, my little fingers were also a lot smaller than they are today, so my memory might be colored by that fact. But small or large, wild blackberries make delicious jam.

If you want to make some of your own, start in late July by looking for blackberry patches on friends’ properties or along roads and hiking trails in the county, state and national forests of northern Wisconsin. Having identified some locations with good crops of unripe berries, you can go directly to those places in mid-August to harvest those luscious fruits before other hungry berry pickers beat you to them.

We are lucky to have blackberry patches close to our cabin. We are less fortunate to have competition from large black creatures with thick hairy coats that protect them from blackberry thorns. Bears survive because they are expert food scroungers. They have a sense of smell seven times better than a dog, which makes it possible for them to know when blackberries are ripe just by walking through the woods. Ripe blackberries have a wonderful fragrance you can smell when you hold a handful up to your nose. Bears can smell ripe blackberries a half mile away.

Bears have good memories too, especially for food. They return regularly to locations where they found good sources of food in the past. When they visit one of their favorite blackberry patches in July and find a good crop of green berries, you can bet that they won’t forget to be back in August when the smell of ripe blackberries tells them it is time for dinner.

You can always tell when a bear has been picking blackberries in a patch, because a bear tramples a nice wide path through the canes. These paths are handy for human berry pickers who are less tolerant of the thorns. Many’s the time I have thanked “Mr. Bear” (that’s what Dad always called bears) for making it easy for me to get to the center of a patch where the biggest berries are usually found. Even though “Mr. Bear” had eaten his fill, there were always enough left for me.

Picking blackberries is a relatively easy job, if you take some precautions against the thorns. Good walking shoes, long pants and and long-sleeved shirts are a must. One friend says he wears a leather glove on this left hand to hold or push canes out of the way while he picks with his right. I just resign myself to a few pokes and scratches.

Most blackberries grow at waist height, so you don’t have to bend over or crouch the way you do when picking blueberries or strawberries. Blackberries also don’t compact as much as raspberries, so your pail fills pretty quickly if you’re in a a good patch. Once you have eight or nine cups of berries in your pail, you have the essential ingredient for blackberry jam. The ingredients below will make nine to ten cups.

INGREDIENTS:

5 to 6 cups crushed blackberries
1 cup cold water
7 cups sugar
2 T lemon juice
1 pouch CERTO
Paraffin wax to seal the jars

PROCEDURE:

Start by washing and sterilizing enough jars to hold ten cups of jam. You may not need the tenth jar, but it is a lot easier to dry it and put it away than to try washing and sterilizing an extra jar while your jam is jelling in the pot. I sterilize the jars by placing them upside down in a baking pan and adding an inch of water. When the pan comes to a boil, turn off the heat.

Wash and clean the berries, removing any leaves, stems and other foreign items such as occasional insects. The best way to do this is to clean the kitchen sink thoroughly, pour in the berries and cover them with water. Then rinse small handfuls under a trickle of water from the faucet and put the clean berries in a colander to drain.

Put the drained berries in a pan or bowl and crush them with a potato masher. Measure five cups into a Dutch oven or soup pot, add a cup of cold water and bring the pot to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer the berries for five or six minutes, again stirring often. I use the potato masher to stir and continue crushing the berries while they simmer.

Measure seven cups of sugar into a mixing bowl and set it aside.

Remove the pot from the heat and measure two cups of juice and berries into a small bowl. Strain the rest of the liquid through a cloth in a colander over a bowl and rinse out the pot. Put the two cups of mashed berries and juice into the pot and add two cups of strained juice to the berry mixture. If you have a little juice left over, you can add it to the pot without danger. Don’t add more than two extra tablespoons of juice, however, or the jam might not jell properly.

Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring the pot to a boil. While the juice and berries are heating, open a pouch of CERTO per instructions on the package and set it near the pot.

When the pot reaches a rolling boil (a boil that can’t be stirred down completely), stir it constantly while it boils for a minute. Then stir in the CERTO and bring the pot back to a rolling boil. Boil the jam for one minute, then remove the pot from the heat.

Skim excess foam, if necessary, and stir the jam for two or three minutes to help ensure that the crushed berries don’t all rise to the tops of the jars.

After you have removed the jam from the heat, transfer the jars from the pan of water and allow them to drain briefly on a rack, then stand them upright on waxed paper.

While you are stirring the jam, melt some paraffin in a small sauce pan on a burner under very low heat. Be careful not to heat the paraffin more than just to melt it. Using a dipper and a funnel, fill the hot jars, leaving one third to a half inch head space. If necessary, use a piece of moistened paper towel to remove any dribbled jam from the inside of the tops of the jars.

Use a tablespoon to put a thin layer of melted paraffin on top of the jam in each jar and allow the jam to cool without moving it. After the jam is well cooled, add a second thin layer of paraffin.

Close the tops of the jars with screw caps or plastic wrap tied in place.

Posted in Fruits, Gluten free, Jams and Jellies, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Many years ago for two days in a row I lunched on a vegetable soup made with pork, black beans, whole kernel corn and a variety of peppers. The final touch was lime juice which produced a bright fresh flavor. It was so good that I returned the second day just to have another bowl of the stuff. As I recall the waitress told me that it was a Cuban soup.

It was rather spicy, which may explain why it disappeared from the menu. Many cooks in northern Wisconsin think that they are being generous when they stir a tablespoon of chili powder into a gallon of tomato sauce and kidney beans. I have often thought of trying to create a soup that at least reminds me of that wonderful example of that Caribbean cuisine.

Having a few extra ears of sweet corn left over from dinner the night before and a pork hock languishing in the freezer, I decided to give it a shot. I began by reading about fifty recipes on the Web, most of which appeared to be nothing like I remembered. I then made a list of ingredients that I guessed had been in the soup I had eaten those many years ago and started work. The one ingredient I would never have included on my own was the molasses. In fact, I added it only after my wife and I tasted the soup just before I served it. We agreed that the molasses adds depth to the flavor without any sweetness.

I call this my Caribbean soup because it is simply one that reminds me of soups from the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Mayan Riviera. As one glance would tell you, I am not a native of the Caribbean, but I do love the foods developed by generations of cooks using ingredients common on the islands and coasts of that sea.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. dried black beans
1 smoked ham hock
About 2 qts. water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 large bay leaf
3 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion (2 cups chopped)
1 medium green bell pepper (1 cup chopped)
1/2 medium red bell pepper (1 cups chopped)
1 large or two small jalapeño peppers (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1 large carrot
1 rib of celery
3 large garlic cloves
1 1/2 – 2 cups whole kernel corn
1 T cumin
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 T molasses
2 – 3 T lime juice

PROCEDURE:

Sort and rinse the beans the night before you plan on making the soup, removing any stones or other contaminants. Put the beans in a mixing bowl and cover them with an inch or more of cold water. Let them soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans until the water runs clear and put them and the pork hock into a soup pot or large Dutch oven. Add enough cold water to cover the beans and hock by an inch. Add the salt and bay leaf. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beans and hock for about two hours.

Prepare the vegetables while the beans are cooking. Remove the dry outer layer from the onion and chop it into a quarter-inch dice. Set the onion aside in a small bowl.

Wash and stem the bell and jalapeño peppers. Remove the white membranes and seeds and chop the peppers into a quarter inch dice. Peel and clean a large carrot, cut it lengthwise into quarters and chop it into eighth-inch pieces. Clean and chop the celery into a quarter-inch dice. Remove the paper and stem ends from the garlic cloves and mince them. Set all these vegetables aside in a medium-sized bowl.

When the beans are tender and the meat is starting to fall off the bones of the hock, remove the hock from the broth. Put three tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet or frying pan over moderate heat and add the onions. Stir frequently while you cook the onions until they are translucent but not brown. Add the peppers, carrot, celery and garlic to the onion along with the cumin and black pepper and cook the vegetables about four minutes, stirring often.

Add two cups of chicken broth to the bean mixture and stir in the vegetables from the skillet along with the corn. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. When the hock has cooled somewhat, remove the skin and fat and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces. Stir the meat into the simmering soup.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add more salt, hot sauce or lime juice. Serve as is or over cooked rice in soup bowls.

NOTES: Since pork hocks vary in size and saltiness, you could start with only a teaspoon of salt to begin with and add more when you are adjusting the seasoning. You can use frozen or canned whole kernel corn. Kernels cut from left-over ears of corn on the cob also work just fine. You can substitute lime juice from a bottle, but I do think that freshly squeezed juice has more flavor.

If you like your soups spicier, add more hot sauce or just put the bottle on the table. Do the same with lime juice if you more than a hint of lime.

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Phyllis’s Cheese Corn Bread

Mike and Phyllis were friends of ours when we lived in western Kentucky. Mike was a fellow teacher in the English Department at Murray State University. Besides introducing freshmen and sophomore students to great literature and trying to teach them to write grammatically correct sentences with meaning, Mike also was a talented musician. We had many enjoyable afternoons and evenings listening to Mike and our friend Pete playing their guitars and singing folk songs.

I don’t remember Phyllis singing along with us, but she kept us well supplied with plenty of her Kentucky cooking. She and Mike had a place in the country and cultivated a big garden. Phyllis canned the vegetables and fruits that flourished in their yard. She once said that she loved falling asleep listening to the lids “ping” as the jars cooled on the kitchen counter. I know how she felt, for I have given thanks for every “ping” that told me another jar had made it through my inexperienced canning procedures.

Here is a recipe in Phyllis’s neat handwriting that we classify as a winner. It is probably better with home-canned corn, but even a can of store brand whole kernel corn will do just fine. For those of you who do not really like corn meal in bread, you will notice that this recipe has none. It is a wonderfully moist bread that reminds me of dinner rolls. Eat it warm with plenty of butter.

We recently enjoyed it with Easy Eggplant Parmesan. You might want to try that combination this summer while eggplants are still available at your local farmers market.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted shortening or oil
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup whole kernel corn

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 400º and grease a nine by nine-inch baking pan. Beat the egg in a small bowl for a few seconds until it begins to turn lemon colored and drain the corn. Grate the cheese and melt the shortening if necessary.

Put the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them together. Whisk the milk and oil into the beaten egg and stir that mixture into the dry ingredients. Blend in the corn and cheese. Stir just until the flour is moistened; this batter should be lumpy.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake on a center shelf for thirty-five to forty-five minutes until the top is golden brown. You can check for doneness with a toothpick inserted near the center of the pan. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.

NOTE: Use either medium or sharp Cheddar cheese for the best flavor.

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Jerri’s Sautéed Yellow Squash

Yellow squash is one of the summer squashes, a cousin of zucchini and pattypan. There are straight and crookneck varieties. They taste the same to us and we use either for this recipe.

Yellow squash is native to the Americas. It grows well from Wisconsin to Florida, though the plants are very sensitive to frost. There are scores if not hundreds of recipes for fried, steamed or sautéed yellow squash. Jerri’s version is simple but colorful. She has been making it since we were married, and we are still hitched, so you know it’s good.

When we lived in Virginia we had to depend on friends to supply us with those pretty yellow fruits, but a couple of months after I dug up a piece of lawn behind our house in Kentucky, we had enough to share with our friends. A year or two later I became a squash fanatic. There are so many varieties of squash that it is easy to fall in love with the things.

It takes about ten minutes to put this side dish on your table, so give it a try when you need a vegetable with a mild but fresh flavor to complement the main dish on a busy day. Yellow squash also happens to have a lot of dietary fiber and is very high in vitamins A and C, so it’s good for you too.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups yellow squash
1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE:

Wash and chop the squash and onion and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan, Sauté the onion until it is translucent, then add the squash, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for three or four minutes until the squash starts to become tender. Add the tomatoes and cook another minute or so until they release their juices.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

NOTES: Choose squash that are one to two inches in diameter. Set larger ones aside for a squash casserole. Do not peel them, but remove the stem and blossom ends. You can use any kind of tomato. Grape tomatoes cut in half or larger varieties chopped into bite-sized pieces work equally well.

Jerri removes the outer layers from an onion, slices enough to make a generous quarter cup or more, then chops the slices into inch-long pieces.

The quantities in this recipe make two generous servings, but you can easily double or triple the amounts to produce enough to serve more guests.

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Grandma Emma’s Zucchini Bread

Recently at the coffee table after worship service I took a piece of zucchini bread that Dale offered me. I am not a fan of vegetable breads or cakes. I like vegetables that look and taste like vegetables, whether roasted, steamed, sautéd or stewed, not baked into breads, cakes or cookies. My theory is that these recipes were invented by parsimonious housewives as ways to get rid of excess vegetables.

I am not sure, but I think that I was introduced to zucchini bread when we lived in Kentucky. If you think zucchini grows well in northern Wisconsin, you haven’t watched it grow in Murray, Kentucky. You get up the morning when it’s a cool seventy-nine degrees to pick those lovely eight inch zucchinis you wanted for a nice sauté only to discover that they are now a foot long and three inches in diameter.

Even people who didn’t plant zucchini were always looking for ways to use up all of the big ugly green things strangers kept leaving on their doorsteps. Hence the plethora of zucchini bread, cake and cookie recipes shared by friends and neighbors.

Most zucchini breads are a bit too sweet for my taste, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Dale’s offering was really very well balanced. When I asked about the recipe, he told me that it was his wife’s grandmother’s recipe. When I asked, Pegi said that she would send it to me, and it arrived promptly.

Dale baked the bread, but it is Grandma Emma Melrose’s recipe passed on to her daughter and granddaughter. Here’s how to make a three-generation classic that just might end up in the recipe collections of the younger generations in your family.

INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups peeled & grated zucchini
1/2 cup nuts or raisins or both

PROCEDURE:

Peel and grate two cups of zucchini and set them aside. If your zucchini is more than two inches in diameter, cut it into quarters and remove the seeds before you grate it. Chop the nuts if necessary and set them aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease two or three loaf pans. The batter is enough to make three four by seven-inch or two five by nine-inch loaves. Cut parchment paper to fit on the the bottom of each pan to help with removing the loaves from the pans.

Beat the eggs, vegetable oil and sugar together, then beat in the vanilla. Sift the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and cinnamon into the liquid ingredients, stirring thoroughly between each addition. Fold in the grated zucchini and nuts or raisins.

Bake on the center shelf in the oven at 350º for fifty to sixty minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick after fifty minutes. If the toothpick comes out clean, the bread is done. Remove the pans from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes, then tip the loaves out onto a rack to finish cooling.

NOTES: Pegi noted that they used Wesson oil and King Arthur flour, but the bread turned out fine made with store brand canola oil and flour. Adding raisins will make the bread sweeter. Like Dale, I added only chopped nuts, and it was just sweet enough and delicious.

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Eggstraordinarily Easy Egg Salad

“But everybody knows how to make egg salad,” said Jerri when I told her what I planned for my next recipe.

The tubs in the deli case at the supermarket tell me different. I was sure that people were not too lazy to boil and chop some eggs and stir in a few dabs of seasoning and mayonnaise. They probably have been deterred by an egg salad recipe that was a bit complicated. Maybe it specified ingredients not in their refrigerators or pantries—quail eggs or black garlic, for instance.

I have nothing against using an unusual ingredient, which helps to explain why our spice rack has now been supplemented by a two shelf rotating rack in a cabinet plus the odd two dozen jars of various things in the pantry. (I really must throw some of them away, especially the ones missing their handwritten labels.)

Some of the dishes I cook require ingredients I once thought rare and mysterious. Pesto is an example, but I use it regularly today. I was sometimes intimidated by instructions as well. I really thought that taking thirty minutes to brown a roux was ridiculous and, furthermore, impossible for someone of my Germanic disposition, but I have learned patience. In the case of a roux I began by making a light brown roux that took only five minutes.

Learning to cook is like learning anything. One starts with a simple exercise and progresses from there. We began by learning how to add and subtract single digits (“Two plus one equals how many?”), to read and write by first learning the alphabet and to walk by taking “baby steps.”

Think of this recipe as a baby step to get you moving towards greater accomplishments in the kitchen. If you don’t have all of the ingredients, leave them out or substitute. You can use whipped salad dressing instead of mayonnaise and omit the celery, onion or relish if there is none in the house.

I guarantee that the result will be edible, and not just in the sense that “All things are edible, but some are edible only once.” Be brave and trust your taster. If you think a little mustard might improve the flavor, stir some in and taste the result. If you like it, fine. If not, you have learned not to do it again. You can still make those egg salad sandwiches in spite of the failed experiment. A little extra salt and pepper might help.

If you are a truly cautious person, start with a half batch. If you remember that a quarter cup equals four tablespoons and a third cup contains five and one-third tablespoons, the math is pretty simple.

INGREDIENTS:
6 large eggs
1/4 cup celery in 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

PROCEDURE:

Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water to about an inch above the eggs. Bring them to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for four minutes. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs stand for nine or ten minutes.

Drain the hot water and slip the eggs into a bowl of ice water. Chill them for at least ten minutes. Putting hot eggs or vegetables into ice water is called shocking. Shocking boiled eggs makes them easier to peel. Peel the eggs under a thin stream of cold water and chop them into about a quarter-inch dice.

While the eggs are cooking, clean and dice the celery and mince the onion. Mix the vegetables and relish with the chopped eggs. Stir in the mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice. If the salad seems too dry, add a little more mayonnaise. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

NOTES: Almost everyone has a favorite recipe for egg salad so feel free to adjust this recipe when you make it. However, if you are new to making egg salad, follow the recipe pretty closely the first time.

You can use reconstituted lemon juice or even cider vinegar for egg salad, marinades, deviled eggs and many other dishes. If, however, a recipe on “Courage in the Kitchen” calls for fresh lemon juice, you really should buy a lemon.

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Patsy’s Potato Salad

My sister Patsy was grumbling as she made potato salad for our Fourth of July picnic this year. At least, that’s what my brother-in-law Patrick told me. When I looked a little confused, he explained, “It was because she was having to write down quantities and how she did things for you.”

I had emailed her some questions about the list of ingredients for her potato salad (“I use potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, vinegar, milk….”) that she had jotted down for me. I am glad that I did, because I now have a recipe to share that you might like better than Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad.

Patsy explains that her recipe is actually our mother’s recipe, slightly tweaked by Patsy who leaves out the onion from part of it and adds a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and onion powder. Patsy says that Mom never wrote down the recipe. She simply mixed the ingredients together until the salad looked and tasted right.

Recipes do keep evolving, so feel free to tweak this one if you like. My suggestion, however, is that you make it this way the first time. You may not want to make any changes.

INGREDIENTS:

5 lbs. potatoes (about 15 medium)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion
8 large eggs
2 cups mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing
1 T prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (optional replacement for 1/4 tsp. regular salt)
1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T sugar
1 T vinegar
1/2 cup milk

PROCEDURE:

Boil the potatoes in unsalted water with the jackets on until they are tender but not soft. Drain them and set them aside to cool, which will take at least an hour.  While the potatoes are cooling, clean and chop an onion into a quarter inch dice. This is also the time to cook the eggs.

Cover the eggs with an inch of cold water and bring them to a boil. Boil them four or five minutes, cover them and set the pan aside for another nine or ten minutes. Drain and cool the eggs for ten minutes in ice water, then peel and set them aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice until there are eight or nine cups of potatoes in a large bowl. Chop five of the eggs into about a quarter inch dice and mix them with the potatoes. If you’re making the salad with onion, mix it in now. If, like Patsy, you are giving your guests a choice of onion or no onion, wait to add the onion until you have mixed the salad with the sauce.

Make the sauce in a separate bowl. Combine the mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing with the mustard, salt, celery salt, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and milk and mix well. Pour this sauce over the potatoes and eggs. Gently toss the potato and egg mixture to coat everything with the sauce. Add a little more milk if necessary.

At this point Patsy moves one-third of the salad to a smaller bowl. She stirs a quarter teaspoon of onion powder into this bowl and stirs the chopped onion into the bowl with the two-thirds left in it.

To finish off the salads (if you make both versions), move them into two appropriate serving bowls. Smooth the salads and garnish the tops with slices of the the three remaining eggs.  Then sprinkle some paprika on top for a nice, festive look.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until serving. 

NOTES: Patsy writes, “The salad is fine the next day as the flavors blend, but I think making it the day you will use it is the best if that is possible.  Just tastes fresher to me.”

She also noted, “Some people may want to add fresh celery, radishes, dill or sweet pickles, just any extras that they might want.  The nice thing about making the salad yourself is that you can customize it to fit your tastes. Who knows what else people might like in their potato salad…. green pepper, jalapenos, bacon, ….”

I like Jerri’s Mom’s potato salad just a tiny bit more than Patsy’s, but they are both delicious. I have eaten versions with some of the optional ingredients Patsy mentions, but I prefer my potato salad like a good brandy: Straight Up!

Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad recipe calls for more salt. Jerri’s mother used to say, “Potatoes and cucumbers take more salt than you think they need,” so you may have to add a little more.

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Jalapeño Beef and Cornbread Casserole

We love to categorize people. We speak of the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and various Generations X,Y,Z. I think we are missing a good group noun that describes people like me born between 1915 and 1965. We are the Casserole Kids.

Of course, casseroles were being cooked long before Europe erupted in the “War to End All Wars.” In fact, once pottery cooking vessels were invented thousands of years ago, cooks were able to bake casseroles slowly in the ashes of a fire. You might think of them as vegetable meat stews, but they are the ancestors of the casserole.

The modern casserole, however, became popular when food shortages and economic hardships caused by wars and depressions prompted women to begin stretching expensive ingredients by mixing them with leftovers and cheaper alternatives. Thus was born the tuna noodle casserole, the hamburger macaroni casserole, and the leftover chicken rice casserole, to mention only three of hundreds.

We Casserole Kids grew up eating “one-dish meals” baked in the oven. A few still appear on lists of Comfort Foods, and a few are favorites of mine. At least once a year on a cold night I lust for a tuna noodle casserole like my mother used to make with canned tuna, genuine cream of mushroom soup and frozen green peas. I confess to a weakness for macaroni and cheese (any kind) and I absolutely love green bean casserole, and not just for the holidays. I am not alone in having good memories of these dishes.

For hundreds of years from the Middle Ages to the early Nineteenth Century, casseroles were made with crusts of pastry or grains such as rice. With its crust of corn bread, you might think of this recipe as an authentic casserole made with American ingredients. At least the corn, corn meal and jalapeño peppers are all native to America.

Considering the cost of ground beef today, you might want to substitute chopped up leftover roast beef, but even if you don’t, you can stretch a pound of ground beef into a complete meal with a Tex-Mex flavor for a whole family.

An added advantage is that you can assemble this casserole ahead of time and pop it into the oven an hour before dinner while you are relaxing. And who knows, this might become one of your family’s comfort foods.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. ground beef
1 can whole kernel corn
3 jalapeño peppers
1 medium onion (about 3 inch diameter)
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt plus a dash for seasoning the meat
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
Dash of black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
 
PROCEDURE:

Brown the beef seasoned with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper, then drain and set it aside on a plate. While the meat is browning, drain the corn.

Wash, remove the stems and quarter the jalapeño peppers. Discard the white membranes and seeds and chop the peppers medium fine. Clean and chop the onion into a quarter-inch dice and grate the cheese. Set the peppers, onion and cheese aside in separate small bowls.

Preheat the oven to 425º.

In a large mixing bowl, stir the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt together until well mixed. In a small bowl, beat the eggs until lemon colored and whisk in the milk. Add the eggs and milk to the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Add the oil and stir well. Then add the drained corn and peppers.

Grease a nine by nine-inch baking dish or pan. Spread half of the cornmeal mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. Next spread the browned ground beef, cover it with the uncooked onion and top it with half the cheese. Finally, spread the remaining cornmeal mixture on top.

Bake at 425º until brown or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the casserole from the oven and immediately top it with the remaining cheese. Let the casserole cool a few minutes before serving.

NOTE: You can put the casserole back in the oven for a minute or two after topping it with the cheese if you like.

Posted in Main Dishes, Meats | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Mom’s Drop Doughnuts

When I found my mother’s recipe for drop doughnuts in her recipe box, I was tempted to publish it on “Courage In The Kitchen” exactly as Mom wrote it down. I thought that readers might enjoy seeing how good cooks shared recipes when I was growing up. The recipe consists of a list of ingredients but no instructions for putting them together.

This minimalist format is rather common for recipes written by experienced cooks from that period. It’s as if they were sharing their recipe with a friend who they knew was a also a good cook. The assumption seems to have been, “If you don’t know how to mix up doughnuts, you shouldn’t be trying to make doughnuts like mine.”

Having been cooking for quite a few years and with the added advantage of remembering how my mother mixed various dough batters, I have provided some guidance that results in pretty good drop doughnuts. Drop doughnuts are a kind of doughnut hole. You make them like you do hush puppies—drop tablespoonfuls of dough into hot oil and cook the doughnuts until they are golden brown and done.

They are particularly easy and fast to make, which may explain why Mom made them so often.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 T shortening
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Oil for frying
Sugar and cinnamon for dusting the doughnuts

PROCEDURE:

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a sifter. Put at least an inch of high temperature cooking oil into a saucepan and begin warming it over moderate heat.

Melt two tablespoons of shortening or lard in a small pan over low heat or microwave the shortening in a small bowl. While the shortening is melting, beat two eggs in a mixing bowl until they are lemon colored. Whisk the milk, vanilla and melted shortening into the eggs. Sift the flour mixture by thirds into the liquid, stirring well between each addition. You should end up with a stiff but moist batter.

When a candy or deep fry thermometer shows that the oil has reached a temperature of 370º, drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the oil. Since the batter cools the oil, don’t fry more than six or seven doughnuts at a time in an eight inch saucepan. Turn the doughnuts so they cook evenly and drain them on paper towels.

Put a quarter cup of white sugar and a half teaspoon of cinnamon in a clean paper bag. Close and shake the bag to mix the sugar and spice, then sugar the warm doughnuts and put them on a platter or plate that you can keep your eye on as you continue frying more doughnuts. Failure to take this precaution can result in a severe shortage of doughnuts, especially if there are hungry people in the house.

NOTES: Canola or corn oil both work fine for frying drop doughnuts, but my mother often used lard, which works well too. Not all people like sugar and cinnamon on their doughnuts. Omit that step if you prefer.

Posted in Breads and Pancakes, breakfast Dishes, Desserts, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment