Saturday, December 27, 2008

Casting aspersions on aspic

In one of my many cookbook reviews, I made a snide reference to the old-fashioness of tomato aspic and who eats it anymore, anyway? I quickly found out, by its many defenders. I did have a bite last night, fed to me by my husband, who almost made me laugh too hard to swallow by his insistence of putting the emphasis on the second syllable. 

Photograph by Lori Korleski Richardson
The Rev. Jim Richardson feeds John Kater's tomato aspic to Meredith Brown.

Tomato aspic
Serves party of 12 (easily)

1¾ cups tomato juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons celery salt
dash Worcestershire
dash Tabasco (if you like it hot)
1 box lemon Jello
¼ cup vinegar

Bring 1 cup juice, onion, celery salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco (if using) to boil. Add Jello and stir until dissolved. Add remaining juice and vinegar. Pour into mold and chill.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ever mindful of the needs of others...

Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other winter holidays bring an outpouring of goods to food banks and other charities serving the poor. But in these difficult times, the need doesn't diminish as the decorations and the lights come down. Throw an extra can or two of soup in your shopping basket each week and continue giving throughout the winter. We can't solve all the world's problems, but together, we can get our communities fed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas feast that everyone may enjoy

As Christians sit down to dinner today, let us give thanks to the One born on this holiday. Whether you have a feast, or are home alone, I wish you good food as we remain ever mindful of the needs of others. Merry Christmas!

And in case you missed it earlier this month, check out this clip of "Food, Glorious Food" from "Oliver!"  Click here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gourmet gulch

Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet magazine, wants a high-profile chef in the White House who cooks delicious local food. That may be a fine sentiment for 6 to 8 months out of the year, but has she SEEN what's growing around DC at the moment? If it's local, and a vegetable, it's probably not fresh. That's not to say we shouldn't all strive for local first, but should it be a White House policy issue? I think not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Enjoy Obama's Hawaiian treat

I was introduced to Spam musubi, the Hawaiian fast-food treat, through "Kona on My Plate," a community cookbook that I reviewed a few years ago. Seeing President-elect Barack Obama enjoying it on his vacation this week brought back memories of my first taste of it.

2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
2 cups water
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup white sugar
12 ounces (1 can) Spam
2 sheets sushi nori (dry seaweed)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Soak uncooked rice for 4 hours; drain and rinse.
In a saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar, and set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Slice luncheon meat lengthwise into 10 slices, or to desired thickness, and marinate in sauce for 5 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook slices for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned.
Form rice into 1-inch patties the size of the meat slices. Top with a slice of luncheon meat. Cut nori into five strips each. Wrap nori around rice and meat, sealing edges with a small amount of water. Musubi may be served warm or chilled.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What was the bowl full of jelly for?

Jelly doughnuts, natch. Although latkes get most of the attention during Hanukkah, my friend Elaine says that her favorite winter holiday food is the traditional jelly doughnuts. She did a nice piece on it a couple of years ago for Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento, and you can listen to it by clicking here.

Here's a recipe for the treats, reprinted with permission from The Book of Jewish Food (Knopf, Inc.).

Jelly doughnuts
Makes 12

The doughnut was adopted in Israel to celebrate Hanukkah because it is fried in oil.

1 teaspoon dried yeast
¼ cup lukewarm milk or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons sour cream or vegetable oil
A pinch of salt
2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract
1⅔ cups flour, plus a little more if necessary
Oil for deep-frying
Apricot, red-currant, or raspberry jam
Confectioners' sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk or water with 1 teaspoon of sugar and leave for 10 minutes, until it froths.

Beat the rest of the sugar with the egg and the yolk. Add the sour cream or oil, the salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture, and beat very well. Fold in the flour gradually, and continue beating until you have a soft, smooth, and elastic dough, adding more flour if necessary. Then knead for 5 minutes, sprinkling with a little flour if it is too sticky. Coat the dough with oil by pouring a drop in the bowl and turning the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Knead the dough again for a few minutes, then roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to ¼-inch thickness. With a pastry cutter, cut into 2-inch rounds. Make a ball out of the scraps so as not to waste them, roll out, and cut into rounds. Put a teaspoon of jam in the center of a round of dough, brush the rim with a little water to make it sticky, and cover with another round. Press the edges together to seal. Continue with the rest of the rounds and arrange them on a floured tray. Leave them to rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat 1½ inches of oil in a saucepan to medium hot. Drop in the doughnuts, a few at a time. Fry in medium-hot oil for 3-4 minutes with the lid on until brown, then turn and fry the other side for 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels. Serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. They are at their best when still warm and fresh.

An easier way is to fry a thicker round of dough-about ½-inch thick-and when it is cool enough to handle, cut a slit with a pointed, serrated knife and put in a teaspoonful of jam.

From "The Book of Jewish Food," Copyright 1996 by Claudia Roden. Reprinted here with permission from Knopf, Inc.

Sunday, December 21, 2008