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Have you tried shawarma?

I’m a cooking-show junkie, and one of my favorites is Beat Bobby Flay. Recently, I watched an episode where Bobby competed against Gail Arnold, one of his early mentors who is also Steven Spielberg’s personal chef! This particular episode was particularly epic, since the celebrity judges were none other than Neil Patrick Harris (NPH!) and Ina Garten!

But back to the shawarma, I had never heard of shawarma before but my impression of it based upon things I am familiar with is that it’s a Middle Eastern/Israeli dish that’s similar to a gyro or doner kebab. Chef Arnold was doing a marinade/spice mixture using yogurt which really got my attention. I took a few notes, which I will often do while I watch shows like this, and set off to scour Pinterest for recipe ideas. I ended up finding several & putting my own spin based on what I had seen Chef Arnold do and what my flavor preferences are. 

I guess you could say we were “eating like the Spielbergs” the night we had this. Or like Iron Man, since my son informed me that he had heard of shawarma because it was mentioned by Tony Stark in the new Captain America movie. Either way, I marinated a ton of chicken & we were eating shawarma for days. I may have even eaten shawarma with a fried egg in it for breakfast one day… #putaneggonit

Stark’s Shawarma

Ingredients:

  • 12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 C plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dried chili flakes (optional)

For wraps:

  • diced cucumbers
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced red onion
  • hummus
  • pita bread 

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, spices, and lemon juice. Mix well.
  2. Put the chicken thighs into 2 1-gallon plastic bags, 6 in each. 
  3. Put 1C of marinade into each bag. Seal bag & shake it around, making sure to massage the marinade into all the chicken. 
  4. Marinate 1-4 hours in the refrigerator, or ideally, overnight. 
  5. Preheat oven to 425F. 
  6. Spread chicken thighs in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Season with Kosher salt & pepper, and chili flakes, if desired. 
  7. Bake for 45 mins. For extra crispness, put on the broiler for the last 5 mins of cook time. 
  8. When cooled slightly, slice the chicken into strips. 
  9. Strips of roasted chicken can be rolled into a wrap with desired toppings, or added to a salad. I set up a shawarma bar, so that each person could add the toppings of their choice according to their own tastes. 

Lunch salad with some leftover shawarma chicken on top!

27 Jan 1961, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- Jan Murray (L) sits alongside Rat Pack members Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra as the group unwinds backstage at Carnegie Hall after entertaining at a benefit performance in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Vintage Vittles #2: Rat Pack Meatballs & Sauce

Sometimes finding & figuring out a vintage recipe is like a treasure hunt. I found this one for “Mrs Frank Sinatra’s.. Spaghetti & Meatballs” via Pinterest. A few clicks later & I found out it was from the WFBL Cookbook of the Stars, made in 1945 by a radio station in Syracuse, NY that aired the Frank Sinatra Show (Wednesdays at 9PM according to the clipping). As a vintage cookbook collector, I will admit I’m geeking out slightly & would love to get my hands on a copy of this cookbook. I’ve located a 1941 edition which apparently contains a recipe by Ronald Reagan (in his acting days) on Etsy. Which is cool too, but alas no recipes by “Old Blue Eyes”.


This recipe, like many vintage recipes can be a little hard to follow for the cooks of today. Modern recipes are written assuming that their reader knows nothing about cooking. Every step is laid out in detail. While vintage recipes assume their reader knows their way around the kitchen a bit & leaves out a lot of minutia. 

It’s probably ridiculous, but I like to imagine Frank, with an apron over his well-tailored suit, whipping up meatballs, sauce, & spaghetti for Sammy, Dino, and the gang. They of course enjoy the meal with some fine red wine. And later cocktails, naturally. Hence the rename on this recipe…



Rat Pack Spaghetti & Meatballs

Ingredients: 

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C grated Italian cheese, (Parmesan is fine)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C bread crumbs (I used Italian-style)
  • 1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1 large can (28 oz) Italian-style tomatoes (I like to use crushed)
  • 1 small can tomato paste 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1 tsp ground parsley
  • 1/2 C EVOO
  • a few shakes of thyme
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Make the meatballs. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer. I used my medium Pampered Chef scoop (2 tbsp) to create 36 even-sized meatballs.
  3. Lay out the meatballs on a greased baking sheet. Cook for about 30 mins, rotating the pans at the 15 min mark for even cooking. 

    This is the only picture i managed to get of the meatballs before they were devoured by my teens.

     
  4. Meanwhile, start the sauce. In a large pot (it will need to be large enough for the sauce and the meatballs to fit into comfortably) heat the EVOO over med-high heat. Add the onion & garlic & cook until golden. 
  5. Add the tomatoes & tomato paste. Stir to combine. Fill the tomato paste can with water & add to the mixture, stirring frequently. If desired, add a tomato paste can full of dry red wine. This is my contribution, not Frank’s. 
  6. At this point, I used my hand blender to even out the sauce so that it had fewer chunks. Also, my contribution. Season with salt & pepper, thyme, and parsley. 
  7. There are 2 schools of thought with regard to meatballs & sauce. Simmer the meatballs with the sauce, or add the meatballs after the sauce simmers. Frank was a meatballs-in-the-sauce guy. Simmering your meatballs with the sauce will give it a greater depth & meatier flavor. Though opponents of this method argue that it can make the meatballs soggy. Per Frank, add your meatballs to the sauce & summer on medium-low heat for 1 hour.
  8. When you’re ready to serve, cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, drain well, and top with desired amount of sauce & meatballs. Top with grated Parmesan, if desired. 

For more vintage recipes check out my Pinterest board Vintage Vittles! 

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Vintage Vittles #1: Pickled Cherries White House Cookbook (1902)

I acquired the White House Cookbook from a friend who got it from her grandparents-in-law. She knew that I collect vintage cookbooks & text me some photos of the book to see if I wanted it. She warned me that it was not in the greatest condition, but the title & age of the book had me intrigued. 

This book is a beaut! It’s quite literally falling apart & leaves bits of binding & glue behind each time I crack it open, but hell, it’s over 100 years old!! There are some amazing butcher’s charts in the beginning (seriously, why are the pigs always so adorable in these?) that I may frame & hang in my kitchen if the pages continue to fall out. 

This happy little dude reminds me of a piggy I’ve met before….


Honestly, I’m not quite sure why it’s called the White House Cookbook. There are pictures throughout of various First Ladies, and there’s a section in the back about State Dinners & their table set-up & etiquette; but I cannot figure out any direct relationship between the author, Mrs Gilette & the White House. I researched her, although not extensively, and as far as I can see this was her only book. It seems Mrs Gilette & her knowledge of the White House is a mystery.

Look how pretty Mrs Taft is!

I wonder if the men enjoying cigars & liquor after dinner while the ladies “retire to the parlor” is still a thing.


I made a very interesting recipe from this book. Pickled Cherries. I was vaguely aware that you can pickle fruit; I’ve definitely enjoyed a pickled watermelon rind or two. You may have garnered that I have a deep love for anything pickled/brined. Cherries are one of my favorite fruits and really, what’s a more American fruit than a cherry? Sure, there’s apples, but I offer you the cherry blossoms in DC & the favorite George Washington chops down a cherry tree story as proof that cherries are as All-American as it gets when it comes to fruit. 

Here’s the original recipe as it appears in the book.


Vintage recipes can be a little challenging in a number of ways. First, many are written in paragraph form & take you through the entire process of making the recipe rather than giving you a list of ingredients followed by a procedure. Second, there’s a matter of sizes/measurements. Example: a recipe will call for a small onion. I am certain that a small onion by today’s standards is not the same as a small onion by 1930’s standards. Third, many vintage recipes assume that the reader has basic cooking skills mastered already, whereas today’s recipes generally assume the ignorance of the reader. Keep this in mind as we navigate the world of Vintage Vittles. 

Pickled Cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cherries (I used Bing)
  • 2 C white vinegar
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar 
  • 24 whole cloves
  • freshly-grated nutmeg (Mace is actually the outer part of a whole nutmeg. Unable to find mace, I grated the nutmeg with 12-15 strokes.)

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, cloves, and nutmeg/mace. 
  2. Bring to a boil & cook for 5 mins at a rapid boil, you will want the sugar to melt completely. 
  3. Remove from heat and cool pickling liquid for about 1 hour. Basically, you don’t want it to be scalding my hot when you pour it over the cherries. 
  4. Meanwhile, wash your cherries, remove the stems & pack them into a pint-size mason jar. (I left the pits in mine.)
  5. When the liquid is cooled pour over the cherries (I left the cloves/nutmeg/mace in the jar with the cherries & liquid. After all, they are pickles!)
  6. Cover jar tightly & allow fruit to marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

These are great for snacking, tangy & sweet with just a hint of warm flavor from the clove/nutmeg. Best of all they keep their bite, because nobody wants a mushy pickle. They would be a great addition to a cheese board or a picnic. If I can stop eating them before they’re gone I may fashion a relish from them to go with some Brie.   

Bubbling, Cheesy, Potatoey Mess

I made this delicious mess to go with this year’s Easter dinner which also included spareribs, asparagus, & beets. I was aiming for something creamy & cheesy, & I added in a little black garlic for good measure.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds red potatoes
  • 2 cloves black garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 C smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 C Colby cheese, grated
  • 1/2 C sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven  to 375F.

  2. Peel potatoes, and place in a bowl of water to prevent discoloring.

  3. Spray inside of a 2 qt casserole dish with cooking spray.

  4. Heat cream, milk, nutmeg, black garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around edge. Season with pepper, if desired. Remove from heat.

  5. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes 1/8 inch thick. Watch your fingers with the mandolin! They are a great invention, but dangerous!

  6. Layer potato slices into your casserole dish artfully. I got excellent results by layering some potatoes, then some grated cheese, then potatoes again. Save some cheese to sprinkle over the top.

  7. Pour warm cream mixture over top. Gently push potatoes down, to make sure they are all covered with the cream mixture.

  8. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake (with a baking sheet placed on the rack below to catch drips) until potatoes are fork tender and top is bubbling and brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cover with foil if cheese begins to brown too much.

  9. Serve while hot & bubbly!
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Creamed Corn Chowder: REBLOG: #sevendaysofsoup

 

This recipe has been brewing in the old noggin for quite some time. In fact, it was several months ago that I had a conversation with The Bestie about the fine nuances of creamed corn and corn pudding. Being a Yankee, I know not of corn pudding and had to research it. The goal here was to come up with a soup that captured the flavors and textures of creamed corn; velvety but with a nice corny crunch. I settled on a chowder style and it was met with enthusiasm by my offspring (the one that will eat corn anyway).

Makes 4-6 servings

Takes 30-40 minutes

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon, chopped

1/2 a medium onion, chopped

1 small carrot, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

2 tbsp butter, unsalted

1/2 log (about 4oz) cream cheese, full fat, room temperature

1C heavy whipping cream

2 lbs fresh or frozen sweet corn (no canned)

4C chicken stock or broth (low sodium)

black pepper, to taste

1) In a Dutch oven heat bacon over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is cooked and brown. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.

2) Add butter, onion, carrot, and celery and cook in butter/bacon fat mixture until translucent.

3) Lower heat to medium and add about 1# of the corn. Toss with and veggies until well coated with butter/bacon fat. Season to taste with black pepper, and kosher salt if desired.

4) Slowly work in the cream cheese until melty; then add the cream and broth.

This is what the cream cheese looks like when it gets all melty.

5) Slowly heat to just below boiling. As mixture is heating, carefully purée the mixture with a hand blender until somewhat smooth.

6) Add the other 1# of corn and cook on low until heated through.

7) Top with cooked chopped bacon before serving.

Note: I think this soup would also be amazing with some lobster tail meat on top, or a bit of lump crab.

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Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage #sevendaysofsoup

You can make lentil soup similarly to the way you would make a pea soup, flavored with a ham hock and it’s simple and delicious. This soup is a fun & delicious spin. Lentils are legumes, but have a heartiness that is filling almost like meat.

Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 15-16oz bag of lentils
  • 1 package spicy Italian sausage (bulk, not links)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 large white onion, diced small
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2-3 celery stalks, peeled and diced small
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 C chicken/veggie broth
  • 2 C water

Instructions: 

  1. Brown and crumble sausage over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot until cooked through Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage from pot and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil, carrots, onion and celery to pot and sauté 4-5 mins until onions become translucent. Add garlic & cook for another 2 mins.
  3. Add broth, water, lentils & sausage to pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Turn off heat and let soup rest, covered, for 20 minutes before serving.
  4. Delicious served with crusty bread for dunking.
Here's a pile of the little wrinkly babies... Aren't they CUTE?

Creamy Black Garlic Potato Soup #sevendaysofsoups

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 6 pearl onions, peeled & halved
  • 4 cloves black garlic, crushed
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken stock
  • EVOO
  • up to 1C dry instant potatoes (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot heat a few tsp EVOO over medium-high heat.
  2. Sweat pearl onions until translucent.
  3. Toss in the black garlic & toss until onions are coated & mixture is fragrant.
  4. Add potatoes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour in stock. If it doesn’t cover the potatoes, add enough hot water to cover.
  6. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover & lower to medium heat.
  7. Simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender, 10-15 mins.
  8. Lower heat & purée mixture with a hand blender until smooth.
  9. Whisk in the cream. *Hint: If at this point you feel that the soup isn’t reaching your desired thickness, you can sprinkle in the dry instant potatoes, a little at a time, whisking constantly until you reach the desired thickness.*
  10. Heat soup gently, over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve with crusty bread.

Need some black garlic? Order 40 day aged Black Garlic from my Etsy shop, Mise en Place Gourmet