Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Romany Hash

Lists abound for end-of-year favorites, i. e. movies, books, theatre or whatever. So here's my favorite cookbook for 2013.

Bacon 24/7 by Theresa Gilliam, Countryman Press, 2013

Certainly an odd choice, given that my last post was about Vegetarians,  and Deborah Madison came out with a wonderful new book titled Vegetable Literacy.  But this one struck my fancy, and there you have it. Bacon 24/Seven has beautifully artistic photographs by EJ Armstrong with Theresa Gilliam's appealing recipes. I'm sure my vegetarian friends can find substitutes for the bacon in most recipes, so they won't miss out. I'd love to hear their ideas for "Bacon-wrapped stuffed dates."

What really got me started was this picture of a twice baked potato.

 "Baked potato Skins"  photographed by EJ Armstrong in Bacon 24/7

Memories of a version called Romany Hash flooded over me. My mother made these stuffed potatoes when we were growing up and we loved them. I didn't have the recipe so I cruised the internet for anything called "Romany Hash," and came up empty-handed. There are listings for "Romany," which means gypsy, but no hash.  Most recipes from the 1950s yield many responses on Google, but not this one. 

 I decided to check my mother's old metal recipe file one more time. This is one of my prized possessions, containing all my family's favorites, hand-written by my mother. Just the sight of her handwriting fills me with nostalgia and longing.

And—voila!—under the worn tab "Leftover Meats" was the slip of paper with the penciled recipe for Romany Hash. How had I missed it? I have no idea where she found the original; sometimes she cited a source or included a magazine clipping, but where she found this one remains a mystery. 

I remembered most of the ingredients, but had forgotten the bacon fat, which makes it perfect for this post. She put the potatoes through a ricer, one of her favorite tools and, If I'm not mistaken, she said to "anoint" the potatoes with bacon fat—a surprisingly poetic phrase for a practical Mid-western woman!

The reverse side of the recipe concludes with instructions to add bacon fat and butter, refill the potato skins with the filling and dot with paprika, and, after "anointing" the skins with bacon fat, bake in a moderate oven 15 to 20 minutes until heated through. This makes a delicious and savory main course, perfectly completed with a green salad.

The "baked potato skins" in Bacon 24/7  includes ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and bacon instead of ham. This variation may be tasty, but I'll stick with my mother's Romany Hash.

Another tempting recipe from the book is "Brussels Sprouts with bacon, lemon and honey." My mother never added anything like bacon to her sprouts, she just steamed them and served them with butter, salt and pepper. Now it's the fashion to dress them up with vibrant seasonings or nuts or roast them with other veggies—I like all these variations.

Brussels sprouts with lemon and honey from Bacon 24/7

Recipe by T. Gilliam from Bacon 24/7,

                             Two more favorite cookbooks from 2013 will satisfy vegetable lovers

Deborah Madison, Vegetable Literacy, Ten Speed Press, 2013

Drew Ramsey, M.D.,  Fifty Shades of Kale,  HarperCollins, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Anna's Soup

My friend Anna works with me at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, or should I say I work with her. As one of the the newest members of the staff, I depend on her advice and help, and she is always there for me. Anna is a vegetarian and she claims that she doesn't like to cook. Her husband Dave, who also works with us at the bookstore, does most of the cooking. He too is a veggie man and a great cook according to Anna.  I'm always curious about their vegetarian menus, since I often depend on chicken, or even meat to supply my proteins. He even packs a lunch for her. That's a faithful husband!

The one dish Anna likes to cook is soup, and Dave agrees that she's a pro. But when I questioned her about her soup recipes she looked at me with surprise and informed me that soup is a dish that you make by foraging in the fridge. Rather than checking cookbooks, researching recipes, going to the store to buy ingredients, (steps I do routinely), she takes the opportunity to empty the fridge of leftovers to create a soup that's different every time.

Inspired by Anna's creative spirit (did I mention that she's an artist? ) I decided to try a soup with ingredients I had on hand. And because it was the Monday after Thanksgiving, I had an advantage. The fridge was loaded with beautiful fresh vegetables and holiday leftovers, so I took them out and got to work chopping on my cutting board. What a treasure trove of produce for my impromptu soup!

Shallots, leeks, fennel, carrots, celery, Ricki's wild rice & mushroom stuffing, canned garbanzos and fresh herbs 

Stuffing Soup

 In olive oil I sauteed two chopped leeks and three shallots, added two chopped carrots, two stalks of celery and a half bulb of fennel. When the veggies gave off a lovely, fragrant aroma I poured in some TJ's chicken broth which I always try to keep on hand, and brought it to a boil. After about twenty minutes I added the leftover mushroom-and-wild rice stuffing, thoroughly rinsed garbanzos, and fresh herbs from my garden. Again I let the mixture simmer for half an hour and my soup was done.

Vegetable Stuffing Soup in a vintage Dansk casserole 

We enjoyed the reheated soup for dinner and I held off adding the leftover turkey Ricki had packed for us on Thanksgiving. This way we could enjoy a truly vegetarian meal (oops, except for the chicken broth) created entirely from on-hand ingredients, a la Anna. I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving Table 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 was held as usual at Ricki's in San Francisco. She's my sister-in-law and she always sets a spectacular table. But this year she outdid herself, maybe because Leah, my niece, lent her expertise to the project. Every detail was delightful. Take a look at my personal place-setting and keep in mind that these loving touches were replicated at everyone's seat.

My place setting

Thanksgiving dinner was the traditional groaning board of old favorites and new experiments. Many talented chefs contributed to the effort. However, right now I won't sully the artistry of the table with those details. Let Ricki and Leah's beautiful creation last forever in these images. And please, click on the individual photos for a better view.