A friend is working on a local treasures booth for an upcoming fall fair. In the middle of a box of things being priced, was this ratty envelope full of recipes. Mostly cut out of The Washington Post. A few were handwritten.
The fair ladies didn’t know what to do with the envelope, so she gave them to me. I scanned them mostly into a PDF which I will upload at the end of this post, for all to enjoy.
The personal collections of recipes are often a fun culinary history of trends years ago, combined with what people hung onto. I did not keep all of the recipes because well…the endless gelatin molds of all sorts of combinations of foods is not my jam.
There are some great recipes in the pile and quirky things like how to make mint julips.
There are a lot of things I just make. There is no recipe, there’s nothing I look to, it’s just in my head. But today friends asked me to write down how I make my roasted squash soup.
So how did squash soup happen? Two weeks in a row I have gotten squash in my vegetable box. So squash soup popped into my head since it was a comparatively cool day (finally) to be in the kitchen. I decided small fresh sweet potatoes would be added to thicken it up and bone broth made in the InstantPot. Lots of fresh herbs from garden for the broth. When broth is ready and vegetables are cooled from roasting, into another pot it all goes to cook and purée with hand (immersion) blender.
So basically I lined a half sheet pan (18” x 13”) with foil, cut up all my hard sided squashes, baby sweet potatoes, and a couple of chili peppers from the garden, and sprinkled a little olive oil , some tikka masala powder, hawayij spice blend, and salt. I roast everything in a 425° oven for about 40 minutes. Then I turned the oven off and just left the vegetables in there with the door closed until everything cooled down.
Now for the broth part. I keep a Ziploc bag in my freezer where I put the gizzards and necks from whole chickens I buy to roast. I keep those in a bag in the freezer when I want to make broth. Sometimes I even save a chicken carcass after cooking (and freeze it) but that’s not what I used this time. This time I had a bag full of liver, gizzards and chicken necks. Literally like six sets. I used my small InstantPot which makes 3 quarts of broth.
How do I make the broth besides the chicken parts? One onion cut in 4, a couple of carrots cleaned and chunked, salt, rosemary/thyme/sage from the garden. I add water, leaving approximately 2 inches clearance from the top of the InstantPot liner pot. I hit the broth button and let it cook.
After both the vegetables are roasted and the broth is cooked I let everything cool down so I can proceed to the next step. The next step is easy: I take all the squash and scoop out everything from the skin of each piece and put it into a soup pot with the roasted baby sweet potatoes, the carrots used to make the broth, and 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. I give everything a mash with a hand potato masher, and add the strained broth and cook on low for a couple of hours. Then I use the immersion blender and purée everything together. At that point I put it on simmer and let it cook down a little more.
Oh and this soup does not require a dairy component. It’s good just the way it is!
6 ounces chopped Velveeta cheese (the kind that comes in a block)
14 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
12 ounce can of vitamin D evaporated milk
1 – 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 lb ground beef
1 small red onion, chopped small
1 pound bag of Gemelli pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
I have never written this down, so bear with me.
First I sauté the pound of ground beef in a nonstick pan with the red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Because I am using a nonstick pan I don’t grease it. Remove from heat.
In another pan I make my cheese sauce. It starts with a roux which is butter and flour. I just eyeball the flower and I use Wondra which is a great flower to use for things like this and gravies because it’s very fine. So I say a few tablespoons, it’s either that or a few dashes.
After the flour and butter have kind of cooked together, I had a dash of nutmeg and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Then I add the buttermilk.
I incorporate everything together whisking constantly and then I add the can of milk. Next I add the Swiss and Gruyere mix, whisking constantly until it’s incorporated. After that I add the cheddar and then I stir in the Velveeta chunks. As everything comes together you may have to add a little more milk. It just depends.
After it’s creamy and smooth I add the can of tomatoes which I do not drain. I then let the cheese sauce kind of meld together and I keep on stirring it. When I think it’s the proper consistency I turn it off and put a lid on it.
In a big Dutch oven I cook the pasta as per the package instructions and then drain. First I put the pasta back into the Dutch oven. Then I stir in the ground beef mixture. Then I slowly incorporate the cheese sauce until everything‘s together.
I always make a little more sauce than I am expecting but you just let your pasta sit for a few minutes with the lid on in the Dutch oven and the heat off on the stove and a lot of the moisture from the cheese sauce will be absorbed.
2 cups all purpose flour (yesterday I used bread flour it was all I had)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 large egg
1 cup puréed pumpkin (15 oz)
1 cup sourdough starter-( fed within the last week and you have to let it warm up from out of your refrigerator for at least two hours)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup or even 1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut or raisins
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Directions: Mix all wet ingredients except for sourdough starter.
Add spices. If you don’t like as many spices in a pumpkin bread as I do just decrease it. I am a cinnamon fiend I love cinnamon.
Stir in sourdough starter.
Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed. everything has to be incorporated so you’re just going to have to pay attention. I do this by hand not with a mixer.
Pour into a lightly greased Bundt pan and bake at 350° for approximately one hour. I use a metal skewer the skinny kind like you used to close the back of a turkey to test to see if the baking is complete. Toothpick or skewer should come out clean.
Cool in pan at least 25 minutes before removing from pan.
My final COVID-19 cooking note is if you can find canned pumpkin at a reasonable price by it because the prices attached to it now are absurd.
I’m going to admit this pasta dish rocks. I’m also going to admit I didn’t use anyone’s recipe it came together as I started to plan it.
I have written down both the recipe for the sauce and the pasta as best I can. I hope it comes together for you like it did for me.
I think the sauce is amazing and could easily be translated to a fettuccine or something.
The Creamy Pancetta Sage Sauce
• 4 ounces diced pancetta (Wegmans sells it)
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 2 small vidalia onions chopped
• 1 small red hot pepper diced (no seeds!)
• 2 ears of cooked corn off the cob
• 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1 pint light cream (2 cups)
• 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (super fine for sauces)
• 2/3 cup fine grated Parmesan
Melt the butter. Add the onion and the red pepper and some salt to taste. Add the corn. Chop fine the fresh sage and add that. Cook until the onion starts to get translucent.
This should all be low to the bare minimum of medium heat. You don’t want anything to burn.
Add the flour. Stir briskly in the pan so nothing sticks and the flour is absorbed.
Add the wine. Stir briskly. Let that cook for a minute or two and add the light cream.
Allow the sauce to come together and stir constantly until an even warm temperature. You want it to come to almost a boil but not a boil because you don’t want to scald the cream.
Add the Parmesan cheese gradually till all incorporate it and let it cook on low a little while longer. Let it cook down, and it will cook down some and thicken a bit. It doesn’t get stand your spoon upright thick, but it thickens in consistency.
The gnocchi are an approximation. I make my pasta by feel.
1 1/2 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
2 cups of semolina flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
A few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil
Combine everything in a bowl and bring your dough together. After everything is evenly mixed place a damp cloth over the bowl that your dough is in and let it rest for an hour.
Roll out between your hands thin “snakes” of dough and with a sharp knife cut even sized bite-size pieces.
Your pasta should be laid out on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking pad. You should have enough for two layers of bite-size pieces and the layers should be separated with parchment paper and covered with parchment paper and a linen towel and put in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your pasta.
Fresh gnocchi only take a few scant minutes to cook in boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook.
As you remove your gnocchi add a little bit of sauce in between and then finish with sauce on top.
I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:
2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.
Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.
Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.
Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.
Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.
This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.
It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.
One of my favorite cucumber salads is made by Hu Nan Restaurant in Ardmore. It’s hot and sweet. They do a similar cabbage salad as well.
I have never been able to exactly replicate their cucumber salad, but they have inspired my updating a summer staple.
I take three English hothouse cucumbers and peel and slice them into thin rounds. These are the cucumbers considered “burpless”. If I don’t like the way they look at the grocery store, I will use regular cucumbers and peel and cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.
When my cucumbers are all sliced I put them in a bowl and toss them with salt to taste and about 4 tablespoons of white sugar and set aside.
Next I slice up thin one red onion and cut it into more bite size pieces. I add that to my bowl.
Sometimes I add a chopped up red bell pepper to this, but never a green bell pepper.
Following adding the red onion to the bowl, I add the fresh dill. I love dill and do not have a set pre-measured amount. I just chop up a healthy handful from my garden (if I have it and at present almost depleted thanks to the rain), or I buy a bunch at the grocery store.
Next comes the “dressing”. I usually just eyeball it but will attempt to write it down:
1/4 white wine vinegar (or half wine vinegar and half rice wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes or Hatch green chile flakes
I wisk the dressing together in a little bowl, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and dill in the larger bowl and mix it all up. Then I cover and refrigerate until it’s time for dinner (or lunch as it also makes a lovely luncheon salad.)
I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.
I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.
I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.
I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….
I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.
But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.
To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.
Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.
Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.
Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.
When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.
But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.
Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.
I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.
At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.
I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.
Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.
You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.
I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.
Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.
I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!
I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)
So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.
First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)
Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.
As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.
After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.
Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)
Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.
Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.
People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.
My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.
Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.
I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.
Start with preheating your oven to 350°.
Next, your ingredients:
3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark raisins
Five large bananas mashed up
The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.
Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.
Put the pans to the side.
And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries
Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.
After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.
Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.
The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!
Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.
Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.
My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.
My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.
For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.
As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.
One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.
I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.
A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.