Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Seasonal Meals

Living in the Mojave Desert, where the weather can vary as much as 100 degrees between summer and winter, usually means our eating habits change, right along with the seasons.  I mention this because, even though it's only the end of April, we seem to be headed toward a real firecracker of a summer, as the temperature has climbed into the high-90's over the last few days. What this often means in Rosco's Kitchen, is a change toward lighter fare, and the beginning of grilling season.  

Saturday night's dinner was a prime example as we opted for simple steamed veggies and poached salmon fillets. The poached salmon was me trying out something different, as my previous attempts at salmon often ended badly, ruining what had been otherwise good fish. This time I kept it simple. For two salmon fillets, I added four tablespoons of butter to a frying pan and let it melt, then I added the fish, skin side down, and kept it moving for a bit to prevent sticking. Next I added half a cup of pinot grigio and about three tablespoons of lemon juice, sprinkled some dill over the fillets, and popped on a lid. I let it cook for about  ten minutes total, over medium heat, just long enough to cook the fish through. I was honestly amazed at how something that had been so simple tasted so good.

Something else we eat a lot during the summer months is what we call "Kitchen Sink Salad", which is basically the home-made equivalent of eating at a Salad Bar.  The wife and I started making it as a way to use up a lot of canned vegetables we had on hand, and we liked it well enough to keep making it.  The name came from it including everything but the kitchen sink even, at least the first time I made it, pineapple chunks.  The basic ingredients are fresh spring mix, canned corn, peas, green beans and beets, along with anything else that sounds good that day, like garbanzo beans, boiled eggs, dried cranberries, crumbled feta, sunflower seed kernels, crumbled bacon, etc.  Just toss it all together and serve.  It's great during hot weather with a grilled chicken breast, fish, or on really hot days, cold sliced ham.  We had it last night with store-bought greek-style chicken skewers, cooked on the grill, a tasty way to cool down after a day of running around in the desert heat. 

Happy Eating!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Vintage Recipe of the Day-- 04/19/2013

Happy news!  This is the first Rosco's Kitchen post from my newly resurrected computer.  A few months ago, I asked our son to put my briefcase, with the computer inside, into my car, while I finished getting ready for work.  I came out of the house a few minutes later and saw him chasing one of our dogs down the road, so I jumped into the car and started backing out of the drive to give him a hand.  I made it about six feet before the car lurched, and I heard a distinct crunching sound. Yes, in his haste to chase the errant dog, he had just dropped my case behind the car and run after her, leaving me to run over it.  Fortunately, the hard-drive was intact and functioning, but the screen was broken and the motherboard was damaged.  The screen was easy to replace, but it's taken me four months to find the correct part, when I have the money, to get the motherboard replaced.  So, let's celebrate with some dessert!

From Good Housekeeping's Party Pie Book, copyright 1958,

Whipped Cheese Pie

1 9" unbaked pie crust
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. AP flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large mixing bowl, beat cheese with an electric mixer until fairly smooth; add egg yolks; beat well.  Stir in sugar mixed with flour and salt; beat until smooth.  Beat in evaporated milk and vanilla.  Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into cheese mixture.  Pour into unbaked pie shell; sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.  Bake at 400F for 10 minutes; reduce temp. to 350F and bake 30 min. longer, or until firm.  Cool on wire rack; refrigerate .

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Best Breakfast in Town

It's not often that I eat out by myself, and when I do, it's usually someplace dreadful.  So, it was awfully nice today to be able to grab a meal at one of my favorite breakfast spots, Crossroads Cafe, in Joshua Tree, CA.  Crossroads is one of those funky, eclectic places that serve what I derisively call "Good For You" Food, but they also do a fantastic breakfast scramble and always have quality beers on tap.  If you ever visit Joshua Tree National Park, they're right on the way.

In the photo: "Mike's Mess" from the Breakfast Menu, a scramble of mushrooms, ham, bacon, onions, potatoes and eggs, covered in melted cheese, sour cream and fresh tomatoes, with rye toast.  I had it with their excellent coffee and a sample of Lost Brewery's Great White ale. 

Vintage Recipe of the Day-- 04/18/13

Hi, Folks, sorry about not posting for the past few days, but I've been a bit under the weather, with a backache that felt like I had been beaten, (the wife swears she never laid a finger on me,) and like a lot of people, I've been trying to keep up with the news from Boston, and now Waco.  

My deepest sympathies go out to everyone injured or mourning the loss of a loved one from these tragedies.

What brought me back to the blog, today, was a recipe for something sweet and comforting-- FUDGE.  And how could I not post a fudge recipe that includes vinegar?  From the Heinz Recipe Book, copyright 1939...

Chocolate Fudge

3 tbsp. butter
3 cups sugar
1 tsp. Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp. dark corn syrup
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (cut into small bits)
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt the butter, then brown slightly, then add the sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt and milk, blending well.  Wipe any sugar from the sides of the pan, then cover and bring to a boil.  Add the chocolate and boil rapidly until it reaches the hard ball stage (236F) then cool to 120F.  

Add vanilla, and beat until candy begins to cream and hold shape.  Quickly pour into a buttered pan, spread to 1-inch depth.  Cut into blocks when firm.  If nuts are desired, add when candy begins to cream.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

National Food Days

Yesterday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, and yes, I observed it. Every delicious, crunchy-creamy-smoky bite.  

One of the things I find amusing, though, about National Food Days is how few people really know about them.  Even at the grocery store where I do most of my shopping, they are oblivious to them.  

Today, in fact, is National Peach Cobbler Day, and you can bet I'll be making a cobbler today.  If you'd like to play along, I'm including a list of National Food Days for the rest of April, I'll be posting each month's observances on the 1st day of the month, and wherever possible, I'll include a recipe from the collection.  But, I'll warn you in advance, watch out on May 24th...

April 14 - National Pecan Day/Peach Cobbler Day
April 15 - Glazed Spiral Ham Day
April 16 - National Eggs Benedict Day
April 17 - National Cheese Ball Day
April 18 - National Animal Cracker Day
April 19 - Garlic Day / Amaretto Day
April 20 - Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day
April 21 - Chocolate-Covered Cashew Truffle Day
April 22 - Jelly Bean Day
April 23 - Picnic Day
April 24 - Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day
April 25 - National Zucchini Bread Day
April 26 - National Pretzel Day
April 27 - Prime Rib Day
April 28 - National Blueberry Pie Day
April 29 - National Shrimp Scampi Day
April 30 - National Oatmeal Cookie Day

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vintage Recipe of the Day-- 04/12/2013

Since it's National Grilled Cheese Day, I thought I'd continue the theme with today's Vintage Recipe.  The problem is, not a lot of mid-century cookbooks included a recipe for something as basic as a grilled cheese sandwich.  What a lot of them DO include, though, is Welsh Rarebit.  

There are a lot of different versions as to the origins of this dish and its rather odd name. The first recorded use of the name Welsh Rabbit dates from 1725.  Welsh Rarebit a corrupted version of Rabbit, wasn't mentioned for another 60 years, when Francis Grose defined Welsh rabbit in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1785, mistakenly indicating that rabbit was a corruption of rarebit."
In 1926, grammarian H. W. Fowler stated: "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong."
Both names identify the same dish, usually consisting of toasted bread, topped with melted cheese, (usually cheddar) and mustard.
Hannah Glasse, author of the cookbook The Art of Cookery (first published in 1747) says:
To make a Welch rabbit, toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.
During the 1950's, the dish, usually identified as "Welsh Rarebit" was rediscovered by American housewives, looking for simpler, easier to prepare, meals that could be make with new-fangled processed foods.  Which is where today's recipe comes in.

From the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's March 1957 edition of the Metropolitan Cook Book,

Tomato Welsh Rarebit

2 cups (1/2 lb.) Processed American Cheese, grated
1 10.5oz. can tomato soup (undiluted)
1 tbsp. minced onion
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 egg, beaten

Melt cheese in top of a double-boiler.  Heat soup with all remaining ingredients, except egg; add to cheese. Add egg.  Stir in double-boiler, for five minutes. Serve on crisp toast.  Makes 4 servings.

National Grilled Cheese Day!

When it comes to comfort food, what sandwich can compare to the grilled cheese?  Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and tasty all over, it's been a favorite of mine since childhood, and as much as I still enjoy the occasional classic, American Cheese on White Bread Grilled Cheese, my personal favorite is a bit fancier.

So, to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day, I'm giving you my favorite grilled  cheese sandwich recipe, along with my recipes for homemade Tomato Soup and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, because even the best grilled cheese goes better with tomato soup.

A quick note on photos-- When I first began posting photos of the dishes I've cooked on my Facebook page, I wasn't really thinking about the backgrounds, I was just showing folks what we were eating that night.  So occasionally, you might see a plate of food, sitting in the middle of my old messy desk, or in the middle of a bunch of ingredients.  I also try to show the dishes as they really are, without any "food styling" so they aren't always perfectly plated. I hope you won't mind.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

8 Slices Sourdough Bread
8 strips of Bacon (I like peppered or Applewood Smoked for this)
12oz. Fontina cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until cooked through but still soft, about 5 minutes on each side, then drain on a paper towel lined plate.

For each sandwich, spread a thin layer of mayo on two slices of bread. On one slice, layer two slices of fontina, two strips of bacon, two more slices of cheese, and the other slice of bread, mayo'd side down.  Butter the outside of both slices of bread.  Repeat to make four sandwiches.

Place sandwiches on a hot griddle until browned, then turn to brown evenly. Transfer sandwiches to a sheet pan and bake in oven until cheese is melted. Slice each sandwich in half lengthwise and serve with soup.

Tomato Soup

3 cloves of garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
3 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes 
2 cups of chicken stock 
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp of sea salt 
1 tsp of sugar 
1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper 
Fresh Pesto
Parmesan cheese 

In a saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute - being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and wine, and cook for 5 minutes. 
 Add chicken stock, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook the soup on medium at a simmer for 10 minutes. Serve, topped with a teaspoonful of pesto and Parmesan Cheese.

Tomato Basil Soup 

3 cloves of garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
3 - 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, with juice 
2 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable) 
1 tsp of sea salt 
1 tsp of sugar 
1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper 
1/4 cup of heavy cream 
3 tablespoons of fresh basil, julienned 
Parmesan cheese 

In a saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute - being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Add chicken stock, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook the soup on medium at a simmer for 10 minutes. Add Basil and Heavy Cream and blend with an immersion blender. Serve topped with Parmesan Cheese.

To julienne your basil easily, stack several leaves together and roll into a cylinder, then cut into thin strips with scissors or kitchen shears.