Saturday, April 25, 2020

Swim, By Golly

Have you cooked any meals during this Safer At Home time that left you unimpressed? I have. Most of mine have been well thought out and planned because there is no chance of saying "Honey, I don't feel like cooking tonight so can we go out to eat?"

Although there was that lunch I had where I microwaved a package of Seeds of Change brown rice and topped it with a can of sardines, mashed it all up and stirred in green Tabasco sauce and lemon juice when there were no leftovers from supper the night before. I got it down.

Canned sardines--that ever-present help in slight emergencies and when the imagination runs low.
 Richardson Wright 
The Bed-Book of Eating and Dining (1943)

I agree with my hero most of the time. I use the best canned sardines I can find in an Orzo Sardine Salad, Rotini and Sardine Pasta Salad, in cream cheese spreads, and with Trader Joe's wonderful Garlic Basil Linguini with capers, scallions, chicken broth and herbs. And I love grilled fresh sardines. But I hope never to repeat that one quick lunch.
One night a couple of weeks ago, totally uninspired for supper plans, I stared into my pantry (a former coat closet that RH turned into a pantry a few days after we moved in) and hoped it would send me a message. I spotted a box of macaroni and remembered a recipe idea that I had recently come across in another one of my old Richardson Wright books.  

Richardson is my man from the early mid-century and I remembered he had a frugal recipe called Swim, By Golly that called for macaroni and ground beef--or hamburg steak as he called it. I loved the By Golly part of the name because I grew up saying it and one day in 5th grade got reprimanded for it by my teacher. Major blush that I still remember.

The Swim, By Golly looked nice when I dished it up for supper with some steamed broccoli and Bridgeford rolls.

The only clues Richardson had given me for his red-haired Texas sister's Swim, By Golly was:

Hamburg steak cooked with a rich and spicy sauce served on a big round platter on a bed of macaroni. It is, as you can readily appreciate, a simple dish, inexpensive and filling."
Richardson Wright
A Small House and A Large Garden (1924)

I chopped an onion and garlic and sautéed it in olive oil, added 1 pound of lean ground beef and browned it. 

I added salt and pepper, cumin, and oregano, red pepper flakes, a can of Muir Glenn fire roasted crushed tomatoes and cooked it for 10 minutes, then added some Worcestershire sauce, a dollop of Calabrian Chilies in Oil, beef stock, red wine and minced parsley and let it simmer about an hour. I cooked the macaroni (the whole box, big mistake) and stirred it in with some of the pasta water. 

It should have at least been okay, but it wasn't. We were hungry so ate it and I saved the leftovers for lunch the next day, thinking it would improve with age. It didn't and by then the macaroni had absorbed even more liquid and felt like giant pasta shells in my mouth. Trash can time.

Richardson, I know you were Editor-in-Chief of House & Garden magazine for half a century and had impeccable taste in house and garden and wine, and every other recipe of yours that I've tried was delicious--not to mention that I simply adore you--but this recipe is not a keeper.

My dear small group of readers of Across the Way, have all your meals during this time at home been yummy or have you had any failures? It's okay if you tell me all your meals have been award-winning. 

You won't be able to see me crying here.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Dogwood Winter

In Tennessee we have 5 Spring Winters:

Redbud winter in early April
Dogwood winter in mid to late April
Locust winter in early May
Blackberry winter in mid-May
Linsey-Woolsey Britches winter in late May

We've had Redbud winter already and the worst of Dogwood winter when we had three nights of freezing temps, one night down to 27 degrees.

We learned our lesson years ago and don't plant now until May 1st and even that can once in a blue moon be risky.

But all our trees and bushes, large or small, have some blackened tips where there was tender green growth. 

Our pretty little Japanese maple planted last fall, the fourth one RH has planted here, is no exception.

  That sweet little baby! How I hope she snaps back.

While the 10-day forecast doesn't predict more frost, it looks like we have another week of Dogwood Winter. And that's fine by me. We'll have to keep the heat on at night a little longer but no air conditioning in the daytime. And I have no doubt that summer, when it comes, will be long and hot so why long for it too soon.

Do you have these odd winters where you live? Is it summer one day and winter the next? Or do you typically stay deep in winter until Memorial Day? Our daughter in Montana had snow last June!

I've been reading the April 1951 issue of Ladies' Home Journal this week and they printed a few lines from Robert Frost's New Hampshire. It reminded me that I don't have any of his poetry books on my poetry shelf and made a note to order this famous collection. 

I never know exactly how to handle quotes from poetry--do you print them exactly how they are printed in a book or magazine?--but here they are, just like the Journal printed it, simply because after reading them I said to myself, "Isn't it God's truth!"

You know hot it is with an April day:
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle
         of March.

Robert Frost in New Hampshire

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"Happy talk, keep talking happy talk..."

Remember the song from South Pacific "Happy Talk"?

"Talk about things you like to do..."

I love to open my new bedroom curtains in the mornings, especially on sunny mornings like today. I fell in love with them on Etsy, vintage Kaufman hydrangea pink cotton jacquard fabric.

Even on cloudy rainy days they cheer me up and so does my large aloe plant that I nursed back to health during our time in Florida and carried him home without asking his owner, my daughter. He's the third person I talk to every day, after telling BreeBree and James Mason good morning.

I like to go to the kitchen and find crispy bacon that RH has ready for breakfast to go with the blueberry muffins with streusel topping that I made yesterday.

They have buttermilk in them and the first Florida blueberries of the season...and I kind of went overboard with the streusel topping....."talk about things you like to do."

I like to make my bed up in the morning and put the final touch on it, the vintage hanky that my granddaughters gave me to remind me of my dear Otis and Milo.


And this morning I propped two other things there to show you something that came in the mail the other day...

 "Talk about things you like to do...."

Not only do I like to read, I wonder how in the world I ever put off buying these two Susan Branch books because I am head over heels in love with the first two in her true story trilogy. Just started the second one this morning but peeked ahead to see if Joe comes into the story in it--and yes, he does at the end! 

"Talk about things you like to do..."

Like ordering the third book, A Fine Romance

Oh, yes! "Happy talk, keep talking happy talk..."

Anyone else out there have any happy talk to talk about?

We need it now more than ever, don't we?

Later, as per request:
Blueberry Streusel Muffins
Diane Phillips in Perfect Party Food

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Topping: put brown sugar, flour, cinnamon in food processor and pulse to combine. Drop butter on top and pulse until mixture begins to form small, pebble-like nuggets.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.

3. Muffins: in electric mixer cream the butter and sugar in large bowl till fluffy. Blend in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then drop the blueberries on top of the dry ingredients and stir until just blended, being careful not to break up the blueberries too much.

4. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup and top with 1 tablespoon of the streusel topping. Bake until golden brown, 17 to 20 minutes [my oven took 21 minutes.]

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Apple Cranberry Crisp

A recipe from October 2003 Bon Appétit is a favorite standby dessert in our house. I doubled the recipe and tweaked it by macerating the dried sweetened cranberries and dried sweetened cherries and using whatever apples were in the fridge, and finally adding a whole bag of cranberries from the freezer.

Apple and Cranberry Crisps with Ginger-Pecan Topping
(I doubled this recipe.)

I macerate the 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries and 1/4 cup dried sweetened cherries in 2 tablespoons of Calvados but you can sub apple brandy or even water for 20 minutes.

For filling: 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes.

Add the macerated dried sweetened cranberries and cherries.

Add half a bag of frozen cranberries, if you have them.

Add 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon all purpose flour.

Let stand about 5 minutes until juicy. 

Butter a baking dish or individual custard cups, pour filling in and bake at 20 minutes for the individual cups or 30 minutes for large baking dish.

While filling is baking, prepare topping:

In large bowl stir together: 
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/3 teaspoon salt

Rub in 1/2 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes until coarse meal forms.

Mix in 2/3 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped. 

Spread topping over hot filling and bake until topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

We didn't have any vanilla ice cream in the freezer but it is wonderful with this dessert.

This dessert is pure comfort food, something we all need now. And it has a lot of fruit in it so that makes it healthy, right? 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it! 🤭