Showing posts with label onions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label onions. Show all posts

17 March 2014

Fast and Frugal: Roasted Potatoes with Tomatoes, Artichokes and Thyme

It seems appropriate to do something with potatoes for St. Patrick's Day, seeing how it was the potato famine that drove my Irish ancestors out of counties Carlow, Cork and Wexford across the Atlantic to New York, and eventually Wisconsin.

10 February 2007

Onion Salad with Roquefort and Bacon

During my first semester at college, my roommate Vivienne and I talked about food incessantly and prepared food almost as often as we talked about it.

We were trying very hard to become gourmets or at least decent cooks, and we made lots of dishes with rice, mushrooms, leeks and garlic. The tiny Pullman kitchen in our apartment-style dorm got a real workout, and we were constantly scouring local markets for new culinary finds.

I must have come home for the holidays jabbering on and on about cooking because that Christmas Grandma Annie gave me not only the cheese basket I talked about on Feb. 5, but also my first cookbook.

It must have been a last-minute gift, for it was a cookbook culled from her own large collection and it had her name written inside: Mrs. H.J. Doran. This she covered up with a strip of paper that bore my name in capital letters, produced no doubt on her battered Underwood.

It was a first edition of “Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cookbook,” a small, handheld cookbook that now sells for up to $75in the online auctions.

By the time Annie gave it to me, many of the recipes were already outdated. But others were classics, and for years this was my only cookbook. I augmented it with a few French cookbooks that I picked up cheap at the used booksellers on Madison’s State Street.

A Meaning Beyond Recipes

I can tell which recipes I used again and again, for those pages are stained, and there I’ve jotted down notes and calorie counts. Among my favorites were Spanish Rice, Chicken-Rice Bake, Miroton of Sea Food, Chili Con Carne, Tuna-Broccoli Casserole, and Peanut Butter Cookies.

Of course, many of the recipes I did not make, believing as I did at the time that great meals come from the heart. I rarely used cookbooks for recipes, only inspiration.

The book must have meant something to me even in my callow youth, because at one point I wrote, “First cookbook, Christmas gift from Grandma” inside the cover.

It means so much more to me now.

It is an historical document of sorts, a primary source for understanding the way people ate in the 1950s, that time of unbridled optimism when convenience foods were viewed as miracles of progress.

The cookbook is also part of my grandmother, for it sat among her own collection for decades, unused, until she thought I needed it.

For more than 25 years, it has been among my equally vast collection of cookbooks and has held a place of honor there. I could not fathom giving it away, even though I have not used it in years.

But I opened it the other night and I don’t think I can accurately describe the wave of something — nostalgia? — that poured over me.

I felt good, I felt comforted, I felt wrapped in love and security.

Perhaps this humble gift was more than a cookbook, I thought. Perhaps it was — it is — part of me in a way other cookbooks, other books even will never be.

A Culinary Epiphany

Great food artfully prepared dazzles me and sweeps me off my feet. It is like seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe for the first time.

Humble dishes nourish my soul in a way nothing else can. They are like an old friend, or a good and long marriage.

Here is one from the book that I think stands up across six decades, with a little tweaking. I lowered the salt and added bacon.

Onion-Roquefort Cheese Salad

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1/4 cup bacon, cut into small chunks or bits
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • dash sel de fleur
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • dash paprika
  • 4 sweet onions, thinly sliced or cubed

Blend all ingredients, save for onion. Pour over onion and chill. Serves six. This would be a great side for hamburgers.

Well Worth Checking Out: For a thoughtful treatise on seasonal food choices, please read the Feb. 1 post at Lucy's Kitchen Notebook.

Also, there are two blogs, one new and one not-so-new, I'd like to call your attention to: (1) Charles at Bi-Coastal Cook, which is new and out of Maryland; and (2) the not-so-new but oh-so-spot-on Molly at My Madeleine, who also writes about taste, memory and experience as well as food (thanks to Terry B of Blue Kitchen for the link. I will be adding these to my blog list later today.

Thanks to Chris L. at The French Journal and to Erika at Tummy Treasure for links and mentions of B-Day and thanks to ChrisB at Ms. Cellania for the link today.

As part of my desire to be kinder and gentler, I vow to be better at thanking people for links.

24 January 2007

Garlic on my Fingers and the Smell of the Kitchen

“You’ll know the answer to this question,” an unmarried male coworker said to me recently. “How do you get the smell of onion or garlic off your hands?”

The question smacked — make that smelled — of sexism, but I answered as best I could: Lemon, baking soda, salt, tomato sauce, stainless steel, alcohol-based cleanser. I gave him a variety of options.

But later that day, after peeling and chopping garlic, I sniffed my fingers. Why would I want to eliminate a fragrance that smells good. To me, anyway.

Isn’t olfactory sensation all part of the process of preparing and eating food?

I say it is. And with rare exceptions — the smell of deep frying or the smell of lobster in an unvented kitchen in winter, for example — it is welcome, at least in my kitchen.

While I have purchased my share of odor-masking and odor-eliminating candles, soaps, rubs, cleansers and potpourris, I now prefer a kitchen to smell like a kitchen.

“You can always tell a Swedish kitchen,” Grandma Annie used to say. “The coffee pot is always on and it’s always fresh.”

I thought about it and it was true. Friends and neighbors, Anna and Lillian were Swedish women married to French men. Their kitchens were redolent of freshly-perked coffee — most welcome on cold, winter afternoons.

And they almost always had fresh-from-the-oven coffee cake or rolls, too. Their kitchens were scrupulously clean and tidy, but oh, they smelled so good.

Some people’s kitchens had a certain piquant, almost sausage-y smell. I grew to like those, too.

In Annie’s kitchen, the aromas of vanilla and almond predominated, perhaps because she baked so much. When I want to evoke Annie’s kitchen today, all I do is open a bottle of almond extract. It is a powerful agent of time travel for me.

My mother’s kitchen smelled of cardamom and apples when I was a child. When I use cardamom, I am three years old again and playing in my mother’s sunny yellow kitchen.

More often than not, my own kitchen is filled with the odor of onions — and yes, some times garlic.

While I realize the smell of garlic might offend some people, I no longer worry about it on my hands after I’ve made sausage rustica or ratatouille.

There are, the way I see it, far too many other things to fuss about these days.

What does your kitchen smell like? What aromas bring you back to childhood or another time in your life?