Cooking for Two, the second time around

I was checking out Google’s new, expanded newspaper archives this weekend, because Toby’s been feeling under the weather and I’ve renewed my pledge to attempt to cook more. First of all, let me say that I’ve believed this site will revolutionize Clipped & Diced since the moment I heard about it on Lifehacker.

First of all, as a big visual person, I was floored to see the timeline breakdown of when articles were published. Here’s what I saw when I searched for recipes.

One of the first pieces I found was an LA Times article discussing the increase in recipes designed for two diners. Toby and I receive subscriptions to several magazines targeted for two-person households, and we have a few cookbooks along those same lines. The interesting part of the article to me was the fact that it was printed in 1986. It could have very well been written today.

Look at the increase in articles that match the term “Cooking for Two” over time.

Twenty years after the L.A. Times article was written, the Pillsbury Bake-Off caught onto the trend and added a Cooking for Two category, as I discovered from The (Doylestown, PA) Intelligencer. However, it appears as though by 2008, the category was eliminated. Never fear, I contacted the folks at Pillsbury as to the history of this category, and perhaps they will get back in touch with me.

I needed more facts and figures. So I went to the US Census Web site and trolled through a few reports.

The image is tiny (I took a screen capture from the PDF I opened at school), but you can see two-person households increased from 25.2 million in 1980 to 34.4 million in 2000. That’s a lot more potential subscribers to Cooking for 2 magazine.

The previous image may have seemed dramatic, but this graph indicates that the average household size actually only decreased from 2.75 people to 2.59 people between 1980 and 2000. According to the Cansus Bureau, “The steepest decline in average household size occurred in the 1970s, a period coinciding with the baby-bust period, relatively low levels of immigration, and increasing proportions of people living alone.” Additionally, the relatively small chance between 1990 and 2000 may be because of “higher immigration levels and the tendency for immigrants to live in larger households.”

Have I mentioned the Census Bureau is a delightful source of random interesting information?

For our attempt at a two-person meal, Toby and I settled on a 2004 recipe from our very own Seattle Times.

Red Curry Chicken Saute with Coconut and Lime

– 1 baby bok choy
– 2 green onions
– ¾ teaspoon cornstarch
– ½ cup light coconut milk
– 1/3 cup reduced-sodium and fat chicken broth
– 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
– 2 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
– 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
– ½ to ¾ teaspoon red curry paste
– 1 tablespoon lime juice
– Hot, cooked rice

1. Separate the bok choy leaves, then cut both stems and leaves on the diagonal into ¼-inch-thick slices. Discard all but 2 inches of the onion greens. Slice thinly on the diagonal and set aside.

2. Put the cornstarch into a measuring cup and whisk in a couple tablespoons of coconut milk. When smooth, whisk in the remaining milk. Combine broth and fish sauce. Slice each chicken breast in half crosswise, then lengthwise into thin strips.

3. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. When hot, put the bok choy stems into the pan and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook another minute. Remove from the pan.

4. Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons oil into the pan. When hot, add chicken and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove from pan. Put the curry paste into the pan, mashing briefly with the back of a spoon. Add green onions, saving a few for garnish, and stir briefly. Remove pan from heat and slowly add coconut milk, stirring until well-blended with the curry. Put back on heat and stir in broth. Simmer a couple minutes, until thickened. Pour juices that have accumulated around chicken into the pan and simmer 30 seconds. Stir in lime juice, chicken and bok choy. Simmer a few minutes to blend, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle reserved green onions on top.

Notes

  • I was able to do this! Me! So it’s really not that difficult.
  • Toby thinks you should add more curry if you attempt this. Not a lot, but some.

The funny part about this was that we actually had a hard time finding just two chicken breasts, so we increased the recipe by half to add another breast in. Cooking for two fans claim that too many leftovers just won’t do, but I’m floored by the fact that both Toby and I will have lunch ready to go tomorrow!

This begs the question, if you live in a one- or two- person household, do you cook for two? Or do you reap the benefits of leftovers? And how much is too much when it comes to leftovers?

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Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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AJC for Jamie G.

I have a new food reporting obsession. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s recipe finder.

On many sites, I’ve had a difficult time searching through recipe archives. My queries for “chicken” wind up netting either zero hits or 23946732875. Even ProQuest fails me at times.

So it was a welcome change to discover the AJC’s food page. I admit, I was skeptical of the newspaper’s site at first — the home page was so crammed with advertisements that I thought I hit one of those error pages, where you misspell a word in the URL, so scam artists design a site that looks similar but is just all links and ads.

The food site itself is divided into several categories that seemed pretty intuitive to me:
• What are you bringing? (recipes suitable to bring to a potluck or work function, they seem to serve more people than an average recipe without being restaurant-sized batches)
• Sunday Dinner (more involved meals designed “for when you have more time”
• Fit to Eat (healthy, obviously)
• 5:30 Dinner Challenge (30-minute meals)

Bottom line: AJC: UR DOIN IT RIGHT.

The Journal-Constitution is also doing it right because they’ve hired the talented Jamie Gumbrecht from the Lexington Herald-Leader, where she worked as a pop culture reporter. And although it’s silly that she’s moving away from Seattle instead of closer, I can’t help but be happy for her.
Jamie and Shannon
Jamie and me in 2003.

Just for Jamie, I stepped out of my comfort zone again this week with another cooking-but-it’s-sort-of-baking recipe. I attempted broccoli corn bread, and then in a flash of inspiration (and because the site was so freaking easy to navigate), I also tried the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.

A note to food page designers: I loved being able to rate the recipes, as well as see how many people rated them. Toby was highly skeptical of the corn bread, but I pointed out that 16 people gave it 4 stars.

However, it would have been helpful to know when the recipe was posted and how long the recipes stay posted on the site. I assumed that because 16 people had a chance to try the corn bread, it wasn’t just posted super-recently, but as our Detroit News adventure taught me, I don’t expect it to stay online terribly long.

This meal was served with my mom’s fantastic chili recipe, which is not from a newspaper, but is delicious nonetheless. And I should mention that *I* made this entire meal, so you know it’s simple.

Broccoli Corn Bread

2 (8 1/2-ounce) boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, excess water squeezed out

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine corn muffin mix, butter, eggs, cottage cheese, onion and broccoli.

3. Spread in baking pan and bake until cake tester comes out clean and edges are lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Chili and Corn Bread

Notes and Modifications
• Don’t be afraid to overcook this one a bit. It’s extremely moist, so it’s nice to have a crunchier crust.
• Toby’s cousin Alex joined us for dinner. Alex likes corn bread!!

And for dessert, Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups warm milk (or water)
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and warm milk or water with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add the cake mix, eggs and vegetable oil. Beat 2 minutes, until smooth.

3. Spoon the batter into the lined cups. Drop a teaspoon of jam on top and in the middle of the batter in each cup. Press down on the jam slightly with the back of the teaspoon.

4. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the centers are firm. (Do not underbake.) Cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before removing

Nutrition information per cupcake: 199 calories (percent of calories from fat, 44), 5 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 209 milligrams sodium.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

Notes and modifications
• Let’s be frank. (And slightly not safe for work.) If you put too much batter in the cupcake cup, the batter doesn’t completely surround the jelly and you wind up with cupcakes that look a bit like this. I mention this on a practical note, in case you don’t want lady-bits cupcakes at your next office party. If, on the other hand, that suits your purposes, I highly recommend them.
• The recipe insists you need paper muffin tin liners, but you don’t. I thought the jelly might seep through the bottom if you didn’t use them, but that wasn’t a problem.
• We used Pillsbury yellow cake mix because it was on sale, and it worked just fine.

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Chicken Sunday

My mom and dad always joke about the years when my dad would visit Grammy’s house on Sunday afternoons and join the Beltowski family for a chicken dinner.

Mom and Dad, 1972
Mom and Dad, 1972

The chicken got a bit tiresome. And so Chicken Sundays became a bit of a joke in our family.

This year, I belatedly discovered the amazing children’s author/illustrator Patricia Polacco (a fellow Michigander). Her version of Chicken Sunday is quite a bit more touching (and tasty) than ours.

Both these anecdotes are relevant because Toby and I have recently been having Chicken Sundays of our own. Our most recent version of this featured a recipe that ran in the Washington Post in 1999. It’s from an article with the headline, “First you take a chicken breast; one way to saute and 13 ways to sauce a weekday dinner favorite.”

Reporter Pam Anderson supports a pared-down approach in the art of saute:

“There’s no need to pinch, prod, poke or push around the chicken. If the oil temperature and pan size are right, the breasts should be done with one turn in about six minutes.”

She gets straight to the good stuff (at least for me, because I need such basic instruction):

Over time, I’ve learned that to saute chicken breasts properly, you must start by heating the pan before you ever touch the chicken. Since neither oil nor butter is ideal, use a combination of the two. Butter for flavor; oil to increase the smoking point. As soon as you turn on the burner to low, add the butter and oil. Slow, steady heat keeps it from wildly sizzling, spitting, smoking and burning.

This was a pretty basic recipe, from what Toby tells me.

Toby makes the meal
The cook at work.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

(4 servings)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour measured into a pie plate or other shallow pan
Lemon wedges or pan sauce (see following recipes)

1. Pull the tenderloin–the flap of meat attached to a boneless, skinless chicken breast–from each breast half and saute them separately. Some brands of chicken breasts come with their tenderloins already removed.

2. Place the breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound or roll until even in thickness.

3. In a 11- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil.

4. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts and tenderloins with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the chicken in the flour. Set aside.

5. A couple of minutes before sauteing, increase the heat to medium- high. When the butter stops foaming, turns brown and starts to smell nutty, transfer the chicken breasts and the tenderloins to the skillet. Cook, turning only once, until the chicken breasts are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side (tenderloins will be done a little sooner). Remove the chicken from the skillet.

Orange-Dijon Pan Sauce With Rosemary

(4 servings)

1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon butter

1. To the drippings in the skillet, add the orange juice, mustard and rosemary and boil over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup.

2. Carefully tilt the skillet so the liquid collects at 1 side of the pan.

3. Whisk in the butter until the sauce is smooth and glossy.

4. Spoon a little sauce over each sauteed breast and serve immediately.

The meal.
This week’s meal.

Notes and Modifications
• Per serving: 43 calories, trace protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 8 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
• Toby said, “I just followed the recipe to a tee.” So apparently that’s all you need to do.
• Recipe taken from: First, You Take a Chicken Breast; One Way to Saute and 13 Ways to Sauce a Weekday Dinner Favorite. Pam Anderson. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.:Sep 22, 1999. p. F01

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Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Baked Brie

I have expressed several times before that I am miserable at cooking. My hope in attempting this week’s recipe was the “baked” part of baked brie would save me.

It’s not the first time that the talented Ms. Emily Bingham has said exactly what I’m thinking, and here are her thoughts on baking people vs. cooking people.

Baking is an exact science, it requires knowing all these nuances about your oven and the weather and such… you sort of have to follow directions (unless you’re a super pro). So basically, I think I’m good at baking because I’m really anal. And cooking favors people like my flamboyant mother, who just tosses things in at random only to have things turn out wonderfully (and when she tries the same things with bread or cookies, it’s always a disaster).

Right on, Emily.

Googling for “baking vs. cooking” also led me to a blog with an author who feels the opposite of me.

Which camp do you belong to, cooking or baking? Is there a way to marry these two distinct leanings?

Onto the recipe. I ripped this one from the December 30, 2007 edition of the Detroit Free Press when I was home for Christmas.

Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic and Herbs

Serves: 10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 whole garlic bulb
1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (1 pound) round loaf sourdough bread
1 (8 ounce) round Brie or Camembert cheese, leave rind on
1 (10.5 ounce) baguette, sliced and toasted

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove papery outer skin from garlic, but do not peel or separate cloves.

2. Cut top 1/4 inch off bulb. Place cut side up on foil. Brush with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Bake 30-35 minutes or until softened.

3. Meanwhile, cut top 1/4 off round loaf of bread. Hollow out loaf so cheese will fit inside. Set aside removed bread. Place cheese inside bread.

4. Cool garlic for 10-15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Squeeze softened garlic into a bowl; mash with a fork. Spread over cheese. Sprinkle with additional rosemary and thyme if desired.

5. Replace bread top; brush outside of bread with remaining oil. Wrap in foil; bake 45-50 minutes or until cheese is melted.

6. Slice and serve with toasted baguette slices and reserved bread on a platter.

I don’t have any pictures of the final product because I finished making it at a party of people I wasn’t terribly familiar with and thus I felt silly taking pictures of my food. I will say, however, that it was totally gone by the end of the night and that I received plenty of compliments on it.

Here’s what it looked like after we inserted the cheese, but before we put the roasted garlic on top:

Baked Brie
Step one: cut a hole in the bread. Step two: put your cheese in that bread.

And here’s the final product as created in the Freep test kitchen. I couldn’t copy the whole article because it’s not available on the Web site, and I discovered that recipes themselves can’t be copyrighted, but the narrative accompanying the recipe can.

Baked Brie Article
A much lovelier image than I could have created, although the MacBook camera picture of it isn’t the greatest.

Notes and Modifications

• We didn’t use kosher salt. We used regular salt. It seemed just fine. Unless you follow kosher.
• The house reeked of garlic once we were done with it. I began to frantically search for remedies, but then Toby pointed out that incense would fix everything. Duh. Clearly he is the yin to my yang.
• We squished the rosemary and thyme before adding them to the recipe. Apparently this is what you do with spices to activate the flavor. If you are a baker, not a cook, like me, perhaps this information was helpful to you.
• See the tiny decorative sprig of thyme in the Freep’s finished product? Toby did that to ours, and it looked quite lovely.
• Throughout the creation of this dish, I kept insisting that we needed parsley and sage to go with the rosemary and thyme. Toby rolled his eyes.
• We didn’t think it would take anywhere near 45-50 minutes to melt the cheese, but it did.
• Speaking of melted cheese, we almost went the cheap way and got two wedges of Trader Joe’s brie instead of getting a whole round. The rind keeps the cheese in the bread, so if we had gone the wedge route, we would have had an enormous mess.

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Pineapple Pound Cake

Phew. This past week has been devoted to tracking down the date that the Detroit News printed a delicious pineapple pound cake recipe.

Pineapple Pound Cake Recipe
The recipe.

Allow me to take you through the process that we undertook to attempt to put this tasty recipe in a historical perspective.

First, we visited the Detroit News’ Web site. The home page gave me the option of perusing the last seven days or looking into the Rearview Mirror at the photo store of Michigan’s yesteryears. I could find nothing beyond that, not even a basic archive search.

Then I tackled ProQuest and Lexis Nexus. Lexis Nexus Academic doesn’t have the News, nor does it have the Free Press. The Daily Yomiuri, yes. Detroit News? No.

I finally had to contact my talented copy editor friend, Benita, to help me out. She found the archive search page at detnews.com, which was a battle in and of itself, but even that only went back a year.

Dan & Benita
The lovely Benita with Freep copy editor Dan Austin, Detroit’s biggest fan.

She hooked me up even further and went through the News’ internal archives, but those only went back three years. “The font recipe exchange is totally ’80s type,” said Benita, which would obviously put us back much further than three years. We seemed to be a dead end.

But why stop there?

I sent off an e-mail to Neal Rubin, metro columnist at the News. I thought he might be able to unearth something Benita didn’t, because he often writes posts about figuring out random stuff. I also knew him from a high school internship, and we stayed in one-e-mail-a-year touch, so it seemed like a better option than contacting someone random in the News’ library.

Neal was back with answers in a day or so:

Recipes aren’t indexed as far back as this one goes. What I do know is that [reporter] Andrea Wojack worked for the News prior to the JOA, which means before 1989.

So we know that it was, indeed, from the late ’70s or the ’80s.

I just found out today what Wojack is doing now, so I’m planning on contacting her soon. Not that she probably remembers this one particular recipe, but it’s worth a try.

Bottom line: At some point in the 1980s, the News printed a fantastic recipe for pineapple pound cake.

I can wager a guess that the Detroit News reduced its free archived content because it wanted a way to make more money from the Web site. But how can it make money if it won’t even tell me what it has hidden in its archives?

Anyway, onto the cake.

I just skirted disaster when I attempted this recipe, as I was under the mistaken impression that a “tube pan” was just a longer, thinner version of a loaf pan. I needed a ten-inch tube pan and my loaf pan was 9 3/4″, so I assumed I’d be close enough. I called Mom to confirm, and was surprised to discover that a tube pan actually means a Bundt cake pan. Whoops!

Clearly, my background weighs more heavily on the reporting side than the baking side of this endeavor.

That crisis averted, I cautiously brought my laptop into the kitchen so I could bake.

MacBook in the Kitchen
My MacBook meets my kitchen.

The recipe was crazy easy, and although I was skeptical about the pineapple glaze (because it looked pretty gross), the finished product was remarkable. And now, you can make it too!

Crushed Pineapple Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup butter or margarine
2 3/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crushed pineapple with juice

Glaze:
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

1. Don’t preheat the oven!

2. Cream together shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

3. Sift flour with baking powder and add to creamed mixture in small quantities, alternating with milk.

4. Add vanilla and stir in crushed pineapple. Blend well.

5. Pour batter into well-greased 10-inch tube pan.

6. Place in cold oven. Set the temperature to 325 degrees and bake 1 1/2 hours or until cake springs back in pan when lightly touched.

7. Let cake stand a few minutes in pan, then loosen and invert on rack.

8. For glaze, combine butter, sugar and pineapple. Pour over warm cake. Cool before serving.

Finished Pineapple Pound Cake
Delightful.

Notes and Modifications
• We had regular canned pineapple on hand, but it’s worth it to go out and get diced/crushed pineapple instead so you don’t have to mess with a food processor or anything.
• Obviously, this cake needed to be placed on a larger plate. Don’t make the same mistake we did, as we came dangerously close to a glaze disaster.
• A big THANK YOU to Benita and Neal for all their help!

And just think, without my mother obsessively saving recipes, this one would have been lost for all eternity.

Coming up: the history of the Bundt pan revolution, and a test kitchen adventure.

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Published in: on January 27, 2008 at 8:52 am  Comments (5)  
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Salmon Burgers with Yogurt-Dill Sauce

I stumbled upon this recipe when Toby and I went up to Everett to celebrate his mom’s birthday. We were just going to enjoy something simple, like pizza or burgers, I was told.

Imagine my surprise to discover a newspaper clipping on Norm’s counter when I padded into the kitchen for a root beer. It was a recipe for salmon burgers, and it was being used so Toby’s sister Jessie could join in the feast. She’s vegetarian.

Salmon Burger recipe
The recipe.

Jessie doesn’t like critter flesh, but I suppose fish are OK because they’re not fuzzy, cute critters. (I discovered this class of vegetarian is “pesce-vegetarian” which apparently irks “real” vegetarians, as evidenced by these passionate forum responses. Additionally, I have a title too. I am apparently a Vegetarian Sympathizer.)

I asked Norm why he pulled a recipe from the paper, especially because vegetarian cookbooks are every freaking where, especially, it seems, in the Northwest (Unless these veggies shun pesce-vegetarians too).

“It just caught my eye,” he said. He said other quote-worthy material, but as I’ve long run out of reporter’s notebooks since leaving the profession and had no paper on me, I don’t feel qualified to quote him properly.

(A brief note, and then I promise I’ll be done with parenthetical comments. In searching for a link for reporter’s notebook, I discovered that A. Lot. of people think it’s witty to name their blogs “Reporter’s Notebook” or the more plurally-minded “Reporters’ Notebook” like it gives them street cred or something. It doesn’t. But then again, that’s coming from the girl without enough street cred to even own an empty reporter’s notebook.)

Anyway, here’s the cook:

Norm cooking salmon
Norm Keseric, chopping salmon like a pro.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the whole “It’s vegetarian, but kind of not” debacle is the fact that the salmon isn’t deboned. Hopefully the bones are pulverized enough, I guess. Jessie did a pretty spot-on impression of what salmon bones might sound like while being crushed.

Jessie and the burger
Jessie, eating this week’s creation.

Anyway, to omnivores such as myself, the salmon burger was decent. The recipe doesn’t call for tomato, and Norm tried to stay true to its instructions, but I guess the burger needed the extra oomph the tomato provided. If you want to try it yourself, here’s how:

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 13, 2008.

Salmon Burgers with Yogurt-Dill Sauce

1 pound skinless salmon fillet, finely diced (see note)
1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons plain, dried bread crumbs
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted
Romaine lettuce, for serving

1. Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat.

2. In a medium bowl, combine salmon, horseradish, lemon zest and juice, egg, scallions, bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; mix gently with a fork.

3. Form salmon mixture into four 3 1/2-by-1-inch patties; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil without turning until browned on top and opaque throughout, 6 to 7 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine yogurt and dill in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Serve burgers on buns with yogurt-dill sauce and lettuce.

Note: To finely dice salmon without crushing it, start by thinly slicing the fillet with a sharp knife. Cut the slices lengthwise into strips, then crosswise.

img_0333.jpg
Jessie’s Salmon Burgers. Lovely work, Norm!

Notes and modifications:
• I already mentioned the benefits of the tomato addition.
• Be careful not to let the patty burn. Charred salmon doesn’t have quite the same appeal as the smoky taste of a regular burger.
• I learned this was kind of a cheating recipe (guilty again, Seattle P-I!) because it wasn’t originally from the newspaper. It’s from a Martha Stewart publication. Bah.
• This can be a pricey meal to make because you need to increase the amount of salmon. The recipe calls for a pound of salmon, but Norm pointed out that salmon’s weighed with the skin, which isn’t used in the meal.

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Published in: on January 20, 2008 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yucatan Chicken with Peach-Avocado Salsa

This award-winning recipe was the talk of the town in Hilton Head, S.C., where it won the 42nd Annual National Chicken Cooking Event in 1997. I wanted a fool-proof chicken recipe for dinner tonight, because I was definitely not in a chicken breast mood.

I hoped that Teresa Hanna Smith of Santa Rosa wouldn’t let me down. When she won the 1997 competition, she was already a five-year veteran of the program. I trust people who have more experience than me.

The judge chairman that year said she noticed some trends in the 1997 finals:

This year’s recipe trends were influenced by international flavors, according to Carol Haddox, judge chairman and editor of the Chicago Tribune’s “Good Eating” section. The recipes included flavors usually associated with Thai, Greek, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, Tuscan and Italian dishes. The creative blends of ethnic ingredients resulted in some tasty poultry dishes.

Another tendency was toward recipes with “quick, fast preparation,” says Ms. Haddox. “People want dishes that are easy to cook.”

I’m not sure if her observations would still be considered trends at this point, more than ten years later, because I think many of those ideas still drive new recipes today.

Excerpted from the Chattanooga Free Press

Chattanooga Free Press. April 16, 1997, Gwen Swiger, E1.

YUCATAN CHICKEN WITH PEACH-AVOCADO SALSA
($25,000 winning
recipe by Teresa Hanna Smith)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
1 orange, juiced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Peach-Avocado Salsa (
recipe follows)
Lime slices

Place chicken in shallow glass dish; rub all sides with garlic pepper seasoning. Pour orange and lime juices over chicken; drizzle with olive oil. Crush oregano with fingers and sprinkle over chicken. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from marinade and place in large nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Saute, turning, about 12 minutes or until lightly browned and fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Serve topped with Peach-Avocado salsa; garnish with lime slices.

Peach-Avocado Salsa
In medium bowl, mix together 1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted and diced; 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and diced; 1 tomato, peeled seeded and diced; 1 1/2 cup diced jicama; 3 tablespoons chopped red onion and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. In small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice and 2 teaspoons olive oil; pour into peach-avocado mixture, stirring gently.

Yucatan Chicken with Peach-Avocado Salsa
It. Was. Delicious. 

Our notes and modifications: 

• The chicken is ridiculously moist. Deliciously, ridiculously moist.
• Peaches are nowhere close to being in season in mid-January, so we debated for a while whether we should use canned peaches, nectarines, or mangoes instead. We went with the mangoes, and we were pleased with the results.
• If you’ve never peeled jicama before, here’s how.
• The chicken is buried beneath the salsa in the picture. The tortillas were fried soft corn tortillas. The beans were Top Foods store brand, and the rice was Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice. The meal was delicious overall, but I could have done without the rice.
• If you would like to enter the National Chicken Cooking Contest, you have until August 31 to submit your application.

Finally, we chose to accompany our meal with Rising Moon, the spring ale from Blue Moon. Toby and I are both familiar with Harvest Moon, Honey Moon, and Full Moon (Blue Moon’s other tasty seasonal ales), but we’d never heard of Rising Moon. Regardless, it’s tasty. Not as delicious as Harvest Moon, but nice nonetheless.

Coors Brewing Company didn’t say whether Rising Moon was a new release, and yet we couldn’t find any images of it online, which indicates to me that it’s probably new-ish. Coors’ fact sheet (link downloads a PDF) doesn’t even have an image of it. Google Images doesn’t have one either, so here’s one I took:

Rising Moon
Rising Moon, Blue Moon’s spring ale 

Because this is a recipe introduced to the world through a food competition, I figured I should mention that I just ordered an interesting-sounding book called Cook-Off: Recipe Fever in America. I’ll let you know how it is once it arrives.

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Published in: on January 13, 2008 at 8:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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Organizing what you’ve clipped

Yesterday on NPR‘s All Things Considered, our local station ran a commentary by Seattle Times restaurant reporter Nancy Leson on how she got her recipe collection under control. It includes some great tips for keeping newspaper recipes from being tattered and keeping them grease-free, so I thought it was relevant.

Download the podcast here. Happy organizing! (I can’t WAIT to show you the stash of recipes my mom has amassed)

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Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Are you cooking this stuff?

Who cooks this stuff?

How many people actually settle down at home with their copy of the Sunday Times and say, “Ah, yes, this will be a fine supper?”

Apparently the recipe we’re attempting tonight was originally intended for college students. It was printed on Oct. 27, 2004 in the L.A. Times. After you see the steps involved, I wonder if you will emerge as skeptical of its intended chefs as I did.

Now, it’s entirely possible that as an undergraduate who stayed on campus all four years, my college cooking skills were irreversibly stunted and I am operating on that bias. However, I wish more than anything that I could see the photo of the two USC students that originally accompanied this story.

Christy Hedges describes her son and his roommates this way in her article, “Grill your way through college”:

Oh, brave young homesteader. You are not a newlywed, and no one has yet showered you with Cuisinarts, cookbooks or china. You can make a sandwich or a salad, but that’s about it.

That’s the situation my son recently found himself in. He’s a sophomore at USC, living in an apartment off-campus with two roommates. They love to eat, and have palates more worldly than mine was when I was in college.

“Get a grill pan,” I told him. “It’s like grilling outside; you even get nice grill marks.”

He and his roommates loved the idea. But they needed recipes. And they needed me to walk them through it all.

Who are these young men who have set aside an evening to infuse a cheap cut of steak “with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus”? I have put in a request with the Times Company to see the pictures of these diligent young men, because the pictures aren’t included on ProQuest and we don’t have the L.A. Times microfiche on file at the Seattle Public Library. I’ll update you as I learn more.

Photo Request
My photo request, which will hopefully allow me to eventually show, “The writer’s son, Duncan Hedges, left, and his roommate Kevin Kawachi prepar[ing] marinated flank steak salad. The easy-to-make dish also includes grilled asparagus.” As well as “Hedges grill[ing] the steak after it is infused with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus.”

I don’t just have trouble picturing people tackling complex recipes when I’m envisioning 20-somethings. After all, one of my big projects for my Christmas visit home is to go through all the recipes Mom cut out and filed away in big manila envelopes. She’s found a few gems throughout the years, but I would have expected a bit more from a stack that reaches close to two feet high.

In her fantastic article on the history of food reporting, Molly O’Neill refers to menus we lust after, yet never reproduce, as food porn — “prose and recipes so removed from real life that they cannot be used except as vicarious experience.”

Food writers have always walked the dangerous lines between journalism, art, and their role as handmaiden to advertising. But we have not wobbled quite so regularly in nearly a half century as we do today. Food has carried us into the vortex of cool. There, the urge to become part of the story is stronger than the duty to detach and observe and report the story.

O’Neill also wants to know, “Who’s cooking this stuff?”

At a book signing, O’Neill’s mom finally tackles the tenderly roasted and stuffed elephant in the room:

“Do you actually cook that stuff?” [she asks.]

“Of course not,” replied the customer, who looked like my mother, tall, lean, with a white cap of stylishly coiffed hair. “Every week I cut them out of the magazine and promise myself I will cook them. Don’t we all?”

Toby and I decided to join the brave few who actually tested our clippings. We printed up the “simple” recipe (the ingredients list barely fit on a typed page) and gave ourselves the one hour(!!!) prep time suggested.

Care to try? Here’s how you, too, can make a marinated flank steak salad.

Christy Hedges. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Oct 27, 2004. pg. F.3

Marinated flank steak salad
Total time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour marinating time
Servings: 4

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (we used chopped ginger in a bottle)
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded, cored and minced (we went for the serrano)
1 3/4 pounds flank steak (we had closer to 1 2/5 pounds)

1. Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, lime zest, orange zest, garlic, ginger and minced chile to make a marinade. Put the flank steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the top. Close the bag and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Dressing
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of one-half Valencia orange
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Mix together the sesame oil, peanut oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, orange juice, ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Makes two-thirds cup.

Steak and assembly (what does this mean, anyway?)
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Marinated flank steak
2 (5-ounce) bags arugula
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin

1. Wash and trim the asparagus. Brush with the peanut oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a seasoned grill pan over medium- high heat. Grill the asparagus, rolling them to cook all sides until they are just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill for approximately 6 minutes on each side until medium rare. Let rest for about 5 minutes and slice very thinly on the bias against the grain.

3. Put the arugula, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add the asparagus. Pour dressing over the salad and gently mix to coat. Arrange the steak slices on top.

Click this link for a printable PDF of the ingredients and recipe: Marinated Flank Steak Salad

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Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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Deviled Chicken Thighs

The chicken thighs were approaching their limit to the amount of time they could spend in the refrigerator without being frozen. Given our habit to shuck food into the freezer and then forget about it (i.e. the ground beef from Sept. 2005 we just unearthed), we figured a recipe involving thighs would be a tasty place to start.

Our initial queries into chicken thigh recipes were thwarted by absurd fanciness and time-intense bean soaking. I finally stumbled upon a recipe from our hometown Seattle Post-Intelligencer that seemed feasible. After all, the headline did promote it as Quick & Simple. Wait a minute. The recipe was not crafted by P-I food gurus, nor was it a taste-test from a new outside publication. Quick & Simple is a weekly magazine owned by Hearst. The book the recipe came from, Good Housekeeping 100 Best Chicken Recipes, is published by Hearst Books. The Seattle P-I’s publisher? You guessed it, Hearst.

There’s no disclaimer in the article mentioning this potential promotion/conflict of interest. What do you think, does it need one? Does it matter that the P-I is using a book it essentially published? I get the impression that the only people who would have figured out the Hearst connection are press junkies like me or news-savvy Seattlites who are familiar with the epic Seattle Times and Seattle P-I battle royale that has been going on for four years now and made Hearst the most common its been since Newsies came out in 1992.

Pulitzer
(Even though it was actually Pulitzer and not Hearst in the movie)

Alternately, if you just see this as a media conglomerate utilizing its affiliates, it’s not a problem at all. This is no more of a big deal than one Knight Ridder paper using a story from another Knight Ridder paper. Right?

What do you think about this, Spot?

Spot!
“I say, that what you say, is what I say!”

Apart from the politics involved, it’s worth noting that many newspapers don’t come up with their own recipes very much any more. A large number of the recipes I unearth wind up being selections from newly published cookbooks. Looking at newspapers from the 1930s and ’40s, the recipes seem to be solicitations from readers or county fair prize-winners.I’m assuming the source of newspaper recipes will be a common theme in this blog, because I feel like I hav e so many questions regarding its past and present workings.But onto the recipe. You can find the original post online, but if you hate scrolling and searching as much as I do, here’s a copy of it:

Deviled Chicken Thighs (serves 4)

1/4 cup creamy mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
8 skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, blend together mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
3. Spread bread crumbs on a sheet of wax paper.
4. Toss chicken in mustard mixture, then roll in crumbs to coat.
5. Arrange on baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes; turn and bake until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with tip of knife, about 15 minutes longer. Serve with green beans.

Finished Product
Our finished product. 

It wound up being tasty and relatively painless to make. Our frozen green beans turned out miserable, so Toby replaced them with half a baked potato each. Additionally, the breading on the thighs is uneven because our baking sheet was coated with olive oil instead of shortening. It didn’t impact the taste, but if you’re a visual stickler, splurge on the butter.

Enjoying the Chicken
Christine and Toby enjoy the chicken thighs. 

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Published in: on December 1, 2007 at 8:09 am  Comments (2)  
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