Tag Archives: cooking

Ratatouille – yum

Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: @ Joe’s mouth-watering beanery
Topic: cooking

The battle of Verdun, a six month nightmare beginning in February 1916, that resulted in nearly a million – A MILLION – French and German casualties left the opposing sides so exhausted that it took two years before they were prepared to renew the killing, with the help of 16 American divisions (665,000 men), 20 miles north at St. Mihiel.

The War Guilt Clause finds its way to the French field kitchens at the St. Mihiel salient before the American assault begins. This is a novelist’s dream – let your imagination flow – French field kitchens? Why not? French chefs? Of course. Garlic. basil, rosemary, thyme? Most certainly.

From The War Guilt Clause, page 274:

     Just then a bell rang and eight men in white aprons wearing tall white toques entered the area carrying large trays which they held, palm up, at shoulder height. On the trays were steaming bowls of French Ratatouille Chaud, a hot vegetable stew laced with garlic and herbs. The field kitchens in place for these several years here in the Lorraine were manned by some of the finest chefs in the land and they took their jobs seriously. Herb gardens of basil, rosemary, thyme, as well as rows and rows of garlic, grew in fenced areas near the kitchens.

From Time Life Books – The Cooking of Provincial France:

Ratatouille

To serve 6 to 8

Three pounds firm ripe tomatoes; 2 eggplants peeled and sliced 3/4 inch thick; 2 zucchini unpeeled, sliced 1/2 inch thick; 1/2 cup olive oil; 2 green peppers, seeded and cut in 1-inch squares; 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions; 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley; 1 TBSfinely cut fresh basil or 2 tsp dried basil; 2 tsp finely chopped garlic cloves; salt, freshly ground black pepper.

Peel the tomatoes, cut them into quarters, and cut away the pulp and seeds, leaving only the shells. Cut the shells into 1/2 inch strips and drain on paper towels.

Lightly salt the eggplant and zucchini slices, spread them in one layer between paper towels, and weight them with a large, heavy platter. After 30 minutes, dry the eggplant and zucchini thoroughly with fresh paper towels.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet, bring 1/4 cup olive oil to the smoking point, and brown the eggplant slices for 1 minute on each side. Remove them to paper towels to drain. In the same skillet, lightly brown the zucchini, peppers, and onions one after another, adding more oil if necessary. Drain the zucchini and peppers on a paper towel, but remove the onions to a plate.

With a fork, stir the parsley, basil, and garlic together in a small bowl.

Pour 1 TBSP of the oil remaining in the skillet into a heavy 4 quart enameled casserole. Spread one third of the eggplant slices on the bottom, sprinkle 1 tsp of the herb and garlic mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange successive layers of zucchini, peppers, onions, and tomatoes, sprinkling herbs, salt, and pepper on each layer. Finish with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture, salt and pepper, and pour in the oil left in the skillet.

Over moderate heat, bring the casserole to a boil cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Every 7 minutes use a bulb baster to draw up the liquid and transfer the liquid to a small saucepan. In 25 minutes, when the vegetables are tender, remove the casserole from the heat.   Briskly boil the liquid in the saucepan and pour it into the casserole.

Serve hot – Ratatouille Chaud . . . or cold – Ratatouille Froid . . . the lads on the Western Front would kill for Ratatouille Chaud.

War Guilt cooking

Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: @ Joe’s, let’s eat, beanery
Topic: cooking

A key plot element in THE WAR GUILT CLAUSE develops when the twins, along with Mary Cady, invade Shadow Lawn, Woodrow Wilson’s retreat in Long Branch, New Jersey. Joseph Tumulty, Wilson’s personal secretary, is annoyed at the intrusion and shoos the youngsters into the Shadow Lawn kitchen where Mama Leona rules.

Mama Leona gave the boys and Mary the onceover, and decided they could use more than cookies. “When’s the last time y’all ate?” she asked.

“This morning,” said Ted. Now that the subject had come up, both Ted and Ed realized how hungry they were.

“We could eat a horse,” said Ed.

Mama Leona laughed, “Horses we don’t have, but I got some nice meatloaf I could heat up. How does that sound?”

Ted gulped; his stomach juices were suddenly flowing.

“We like meatloaf,” said Ed.

Mama Leona and her kitchen are a figment of Max Blue’s imagination, but her meatloaf lives in the Blue kitchen, thanks to the imagination of The Luminous Liddy.

Liddy’s Meatloaf

Begin with a meatloaf mix of ground beef, veal, and pork, 1/2 lb, beef, 1/4 lb veal, 1/4 lb pork.

1/4 cup minced onion, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp minced parsley, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/3 cup tomato sauce, 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, 2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 large beaten egg.

Mix everything together in a bowl – here comes the fun part – with your thoroughly washed hands, take hold of the gummy mix and knead it, relishing the feeling of the sticky stuff as it runs between your fingers until you are convinced all the disparate parts are now a palpable whole.

Place the mix in a loaf pan and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour after which a meat thermometer inserted into the loaf should read 170 degrees.

Thank you Mama Leona, and thank you Luminous Liddy.

The Master Chef

Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: @ Joe’s, what’s cooking? Beanery
Topic: cooking

How did she learn so fast? From that, how do you boil an egg? beginning in June, four months later, just in time for her 19th birthday, she was using her Father-in-law’s scotch to improve the taste of a duck she was roasting at the East Peoria hilltop house where she and Max were marking time before the next leg of their lifetime journey. The Luminous Liddy took to cooking like a duck takes to water. Fifteen years later she was the Executive Chef at the Hershey Foods Company corporate headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and teaching a class in Chinese cooking on the side.

But here in 2013, the Luminous Liddy is all cooked out. “It’s your turn, Max” she said, handing me an apron, a toque, and a spatula.

So here goes: From The Joy of Cooking, a recipe for vegetable hash. Max’s Triple Play:

The core: chopped, and/or diced vegetables, a cup of each – celery, carrots, onions, turnips.

1. Beef hash – the core plus a cup of diced potatoes.

Place vegetables in a suitable saucepan, add two cups of beef broth, one teaspoon salt, and cook until carrots are tender (maybe 10 minutes). Pour the mixture into a sieve and collect the drained liquid in a sauce pan. Add a tablespoon of corn starch to liquid and heat until thickened, stirring continuously. Add vegetables along with two cups of chopped and pre-cooked roast beef. Heat for ten minutes and serve.

2. Chicken hash – the core plus a cup of pasta(your choice -penne, ziti, shells, elbows, spirals, whatever). Substitute chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken, and proceed as above.

3. Shrimp hash – the core plus a cup of rice. Use chicken broth, and  a dozen or so peeled shrimp, and proceed as above.

Lots of room for innovation –  cup of peas or corn, or both – try different spices – Liddy says bay leaves would be good with the beef, some ginger with the shrimp, rosemary and thyme with the chicken.

Suggestions are welcome – help me out here, sports fans.