In J. Ryan Stradel’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a hometown cook successfully beats out more sophisticated chefs in a prestigious cooking contest with her simple five ingredient recipe.
Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it.
Pat Prager’s Award Winning Bars
- 2 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup melted Grade A butter
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon Grade A butter
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs. melted butter, peanut butter, and sugar. Put into a greased 9×12 inch pan. Melt the chips and butter and spread them on top of the bars. Set into the refrigerator until firm. Cut into bars.
Isabel Allende’s In the Midst of Winter begins with Lucia, a displaced academic from Chile, making her comforting Chilean stew – cazuela – while a snow storm closes the streets outside her basement apartment. Read the review by clicking on the link – here. I wondered if her stew resembles Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon, and went searching for a recipe. I found this one from Pilar Hernandez who notes:
“Chilean cazuela is a very flexible homemade stew- you can use lamb, chicken or pork in the recipe, but the classic version is made with beef. In each dish you can’t forget to put at least one small piece of meat, a potato, a slice of pumpkin and a portion of corn on the cob, if in season…”
- 1 lb. beef brisket
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- 1 bell pepper cut into quarters with the seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- One celery stalk
- 2 ears of corn, cut into thirds
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
- 6 small red potatoes, peeled
- 4 handfuls of rice
- 6 small pieces of pumpkin
- 1 handful of green beans, julienned
- 5-6 cups boiling water
Cut the meat into six portions. Pre-heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Braise the meat for three minutes on each side, and add the onion, seasonings, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for five minutes.
Place the potatoes, carrots, celery and pumpkin in the pot. Completely cover the contents with boiling water-about five or six cups and cook for ten minutes. Next incorporate the rice and corn; let simmer for eight minutes. Finally, mix-in the green beans and cook for three more minutes. Sample the stew and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve hot with one piece of meat, one potato, one piece of pumpkin and a portion of corn in each dish of stew.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic, Aunt Isabelle’s chocolate tipsy cake has been handed down for generations. The tipsy comes from rum; the magic comes from the baking. You might want to try it for breakfast, as the aunts did in the book.
Here’s the recipe:
Aunt Isabelle’s Chocolate Tipsy Cake
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
- 1 cup freshly brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate Rum Icing
- 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons half and half
- 2 tablespoons dark rum (plus more as needed)
Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a large Bundt pan;dust with cocoa powder. Warm coffee, dark rum, butter, and cocoa powder over medium heat and stir gently until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Combine dry ingredients. In another bowl combine eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. When the chocolate mixture is cool, stir in egg mixture. Add flour mixture a little at a time until well combined.
Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
Prepare the chocolate rum icing by melting chocolate, then adding butter and rum; simmer 5 minutes. Add milk or rum to thin the sauce. Cool slightly. Drizzle over cooled cake.
Review of The Rules of Magic
A small restaurant no longer in business had a luncheon offering I’ve often thought of replicating. When I saw this recipe in a local newspaper, I decided to try it. As good as the dish I remembered, the taste has the sweetness of watermelon and the tartness of cheese, with the complement of cucumber and mint.
Watermelon Salad with Cucumber, Feta, and Mint
- 3 1/2 cups chilled, seedless watermelon cubes (cut into bite-size pieces)
- 1 medium English cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons crumbles feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (found in the vinegar aisle of the grocery store)
Scatter watermelon on a medium platter. Top with cucumber and mint. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with glaze and serve immediately.
Chef Jacques Pépin adds kalamata olives – maybe next time I will too.