250 Potato Possibilities started as a project to document my obsession and research into the cookbooks of The Culinary Arts Institute, but now has morphed into an exploration of nostalgia and the domestic. Every now and again, I will choose a CAI recipe and recreate it for you, and hopefully some dinner guests as well. Expect to see good food, not so good food, and a lot of discussion of long ago food and culture.
In this age of adulteration we know not what we eat, and as canning is so simple an operation, it is unfortunate that so many people use food put up at factories, consequently the author sends this little book out as a missionary, with a wish that it may remedy this evil, and prove both helpful and acceptable.
The maxim that "practice makes perfect" applies admirably to preserving. While the recipes contained herein are as simply and explicitly described as possible, to insure perfect success time must not be considered and the greatest care taken.
Spring has sprung! And if I didn’t know this from the lovely sunshine, I’d know it by the bounty of asparagus in the supermarket. I’d been planning for a while now to try my hand at pickling asparagus. I even bought some asparagus last week, but it didn’t make it to pickles, but instead into the oven for a lovely roasted asparagus side dish for friends.
Pickled nibbles are a cocktail party mainstay at our house. The thing is, I like my pickles to all taste distinctive. My friend Andrew and I made pickled okra last year, of which I have only a single jar left. They are tart and mild. A couple of months ago I made pickled carrot spears that are spicy, but tempered by sweetness. I wanted these asparagus pickles to have their own personality.
I’m not exactly new to canning, but still after all these years, I’m timid about straying from the recipe. You know, botulism, all that. I looked all over for a recipe that I both trusted and met my criteria. I wanted a simple pickle and I also wanted to can in quart jars because my asparagus was tender, long, and thin. For Christmas, my mom got me the book Canning for a New Generation. This book is great and one of the things I like most about it is that she often uses cider vinegar, which I find to have a gentle flavor. But the recipe was for pint jars and I wasn’t sure of the timing. Finally, I found a great handout from a great source—Washington State University! This freakin' great brochure has a handy guide that talked about vinegar and swapping out spices. It was great and gave me guidelines and confidence to adapt the recipe to my own needs.
Wash asparagus under cool running water. Cut spears to fit jar leaving ½ inch head space. Combine water, vinegar, salt to make brine. Heat to boiling. Pack asparagus into hot jars with tip ends down. Add garlic to each jar. Cover with boiling bring to within ½ inch form top of jar. Finger-tip tighten lids.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes for pints or quarts, 15 minutes for 1,000-6,000 feet elevation.
Well, it's that time of year again, the time of the year when my weekly Newleaf produce box is full of kale. I love kale, but it does have a way of building up in the fridge. I have a few recipes I make a lot where the kale is cooked, like Gourmet's potato and kale gallette or the ever popular black-eyed pea, kale and chorizo soup. Sometimes, though, I like to use the kale raw.
Usually, I'm meticulous about keeping track of the source of my recipes, but this is a recipe I found at my sister-in-law's. I snapped this photo, certain that I would remember where it came from. But guess what? I don't. Anyway, I've made this recipe a couple of times and it's fantastic. A little browsing on the interwebs reveals this to be a traditional Italian salad. The real key to this salad it to shred the kale thinly. I love this salad. It's cheap, healthy and elegant.
I'm not sure about you, but so far my resolutions are going pretty well. As part of this year's get better plan, I vowed to clean out that stack of papers that's been moving around my house for about a year now. First here, then there. You'll be glad to know it's gone now...well, mostly. One of the gems I found in this pile was this list of the 50 best restaurants of 2001. I don't remember cutting it out, but I did. And it's only taken me 11 years to figure out what to do with it. So I thought that before I toss this in the recycling, I'd share it here on the interwebs. It's a good list. Many of these restaurants would make it on the list today. My only regret? That I didn't make it to the Herb Farm when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Oh well, at least I have Topolombopo and Blackbird.
I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of Google’s eBookstore. If you move past the first page of bestsellers and serial fiction, you’ll find a ton of digitized magazines from the past. My friend Meg Onli is doing a project based on Black World / Negro Digest magazine, but if you go back a hundred years earlier you’ll find a wealth of ladies’ journals from the 1800s. My favorite are Godey’s Lady’s Book, American Cookery: The Boston Cooking School Magazine (of Fannie Farmer fame), and my favorite, The Delineator. The Delineator is the magazine produced by the Butterick company from 1873 to 1937. If the name Butterick sounds familiar, it might be because they’ve been making sewing patterns since the mid-1800s. You can still buy them today. In fact, The Delineator’s main purpose was to introduce current fashions and then show you how you might reproduce the same at home with the aid of a hand dandy Butterick pattern. If you ask me, the clothes look so complicated I couldn’t imagine getting dressed by myself. Making those clothes seems impossible! The ongoing discussion of fasteners and safety pins is fascinating, and there is always a section on at-home millinery in case you want to make your own hats.
The other thing that’s so interesting about The Delineator is that it is also the acorn from which spring the tree of the Culinary Arts Institute. Every issue of The Delineator contained recipes as well as general tips on cooking and housekeeping. The articles are fun as well.
One of the great things about Google ebooks is that they are full scans of the magazines. This means you get all the amazing ads as well. It’s through this ephemera that I can see into the past. History books never meant much to me, but to be able to read what women of the time were reading, is fascinating. Today I saw a young women reading a crappy entertainment magazine about the Oscars and wondered if Google were to digitize that, what would readers a hundred years from now think.
Although it’s great fun to read these magazines, don’t look for them to be easy academic research. The metadata is sucky, magazines are called by different titles depending on what source digitized them. Most of the ones I have run across are scanned in volumes, which on the surface seems easy, but really makes it hard to find things again, especially because the pagination of the journal does not match the pagination of the scan.
You know what's good? Potatoes are good. I mean, they are so yummy it's hard to even fathom it. I recently made Scalloped Potatoes from pretty much my favorite of the Culinary Arts Institute cookbooklets, 250 Ways of Serving Potatoes. You might remember a similar dish that my friend Stephanie made for The Culinary Arts Institute dinner party back in 2009. This is not the same recipe, but from the same chapter of the same book. I reread her suggestions before I started this one. But really, it's potatoes and butter. How bad can it be?
6 medium potatoes
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
Pare potatoes and cut into thin slices. Place in a greased baking dish in 3 layers 1 inch deep, sprinkling each layer with salt, pepper and flour and dotting with butter. Add milk until it cane be seen between slices of potato, cover and bake in moderate oven (350 F) until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove cover for the last 15 minutes to brown. Serve from baking dish. Serves 6.
I fancied-up the top so it would look Frenchified. But if there's one thing I have learned about CAI recipes is that the potatoes always cook longer than it says. I'm pretty sure this isn't the sort of thing where people in the past liked their potatoes toothier either. It's something else that I just can't put my finger on. Perhaps oven temp? Maybe I should have cooked it at 375. One thing I did account for was the use of the word "milk." Nowadays, we have all kinds of milk. I assumed they meant whole milk, which I didn't have, so instead I used half two percent and the remainder half and half, which is a common substitution. It ended up baking nearly two hours, but I'd planned for that. All in all, this was an easy recipe and the potatoes were crazy good. Even better the next day. We had it warmed up with a salad for lunch. I'd certainly make this again.
For about two years now, I've been collecting back issues of Gourmet. At first it was just an issue here and there. Then I bought five years off eBay from 1961 through 1965. These magazines served me well. My favorite thing this last two summers has been to go to Ravinia, sit on the lawn with a pick-nick, a glass of wine, and a forty year-old issue of Gourmet.
Well a few weeks ago I was looking at eBay and saw that a woman had put up for sale her whole collection of Gourmets. From 1965 all the way through the last issue. This just about killed me. I was intentionally NOT trying to make a complete set of Gourmet. I mean, our apartment is 697 square feet. Where am I supposed to store something like that? And what kind of right do I have to take up all of that space? Who needs all those magazines anyway? Turns out I do because I wrote the woman. She'd never sold anything on eBay before. Her mother-in-law had subscribed to the magazine and when she passed, this amazing woman kept renewing the subscription. I can see how that happened. It would take a lot to stop subscribing after all those years. Perhaps like a monthly remembrance of her mother-in-law.
The catch was, I had to pick the magazines up in Kentucky! I just couldn't figure out how to make that happen, so I didn't even bid on them. But no one else did either. When the magazines were reposted Serena convinced me to buy them. The woman who was selling them offered to meet us in a town called Marion on the Illinois side of the boarder. This saved us two hours each way.
I was really nervous to meet her. I was afraid she would think me a dilettante. Or perhaps resentful that I was carrying away her past. But when we all rendezvoused in the parking lot of some highway-side chain hotel, all of my fears were dispelled. Her name is Terri! And she's an artist and a metal worker and someone who, if I'd met at an opening, I would have immediately loved. The whole experience was odd and intimate. I felt as if I were carrying away her memories, which I guess I was.
After almost a week of rearranging, cleaning, and tossing out, finally the magazines are installed in the dining room. This was at Serena's insistence. She maintains that after the time and expense of procuring these things, it would be foolish to stash them in the basement, or even under the bed. Of course, she is right.
I've got some duplicate years. Now I'm the one posting on eBay.