Friday, January 16, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 2 -- Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.  See Historical Sourdough Part 1 for our first play time.

This time we got into my favorite bread machine cookbook, Great Bread Machine Baking by Marlene Brown.  I have had this book for years and have loved the various breads the recipes have yielded.  It has an entire chapter on sourdough.

ISBN 0-7607-1353-7

On page 131 is "Sourdough Tomato and Basil Bread:"

For a two-pound loaf.

3/4 cup warm water (80 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ground black pepper
3 2/3 cups bread flour, unsifted
2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, well drained and chopped *

* You can use dried tomatoes.  Simmer them in water for a few minutes to plump them up.  Drain well and chop.

1.  Measure all ingredients into the bread pan (except sun-dried tomatoes) according to the manufacturer's directions for your machine.  Measure sun-dried tomatoes to add at the beep or when manufacturer directs.  Set the CYCLE to sweet, LOAF SIZE to 2-pound, and CRUST SETTING to whatever you desire.

2.  After about 5 minutes of kneading, check the consistency of your dough.  If dough is not in a smooth round ball, open lid and with machine ON, add liquid a tablespoon at a time if too dry, or add flour a tablespoon at a time if too wet.

3.  Remove the bread promptly from the pan when the machine beeps or on completing the cycle.  Cool on rack before slicing.

My Notes

I use my bread machine to mix the dough and then I shape it by hand and bake it in my oven.  It is also fine to mix it by hand or use a mixer with a dough hook.  Do whatever you are comfortable with!

I used the non-oily tomatoes and I added a little bit of olive oil to the dough to make up for it.  I know, the recipe didn't call for it but I have made this once before a few years ago and noted that 1/2 teaspoon might be good.

The dough was beautiful when it came out of the machine.  I shaped it into two loaves at approximately one pound each.  Yes, I used my kitchen scale.  This doesn't happen too often with me.

After letting them rise about 45 minutes in a warm, draft-free place (the inside of my oven), I put the loaves on the counter and let them rise another 15 minutes while the oven heated to 350 degrees F.  I used that temperature because the pans were glass and they required a 25 degree F lower temperature than a metal pan.

The dough shall rise again
They baked for about 30 minutes, until thumping their tops made a hollow sound.  Also, the crust was nicely browned.  I immediately took the loaves out of the pans to cool on a rack.

The Verdict

The finished loaves were not particularly beautiful but their scent was rich with basil.  We ate one loaf completely before I remembered to take a picture.  The flavor was excellent -- the tomatoes had colored the dough and made the loaf brown inside, which was nice.  The basil was a highlight flavor and the tomatoes added a chewy element along with a light meaty taste.

Beautiful taste
A light toasting brought out the basil flavor even more.

It was good by itself, warm with a little butter, and a good sandwich base.  Success!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Historical Sourdough Part 1 -- Waffles and Popovers

Last March I was given a batch of 200+ year old sourdough starter named "Melissa."

The story behind it was that an ancestor of the woman who gave it had created the starter and one of her descendants, Melissa, inherited it.  Melissa brought it with her as she walked from the East Coast of America to the West Coast with a covered wagon.  Her descendants have been using it since.

Not only is using sourdough starter an historical cooking treat, but the starter itself is historical!

My daughter was home and we decided to play with the starter in different ways.  Not all of the recipes themselves were historical but they were very tasty.

I have to admit that I had neglected Melissa for a few months while she resided in the back of my refrigerator.  I was too busy to bake with her and didn't even think to feed her, so when I opened her container I found a grayish, tart-smelling liquid on top of the thicker batter.  It was not appealing and I thought I had ruined her.  However I recalled some reading that suggested to pour off the foul liquid and most of the batter, feed her well, and leave her on the counter to bubble.  She was sluggish at first.  For each of three days I let her bubble, poured off about half of the contents, fed her roughly equal parts of flour and warm water, and then let her bubble some more.  Her odor was getting more appealing.

Then I recalled the advice to use water in which a potato had been boiled.  I let it cool until it was comfortably warm and then mixed it in with more flour.  Wow!  Melissa started bubbling throughout and was no longer separating into the liquid and batter layers.  She smelled of the right kind of sour, making me willing to cook with her.

So my daughter and I started having some fun in the kitchen.  Our first recipe was for sourdough waffles, which I did not think to take pictures of or otherwise document.  (I chalk it up to the excitement of having my daughter home.)  I can give a link to the recipe, though.  Here it is:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Waffle Recipe.  We had them for breakfast and stacked them with ham, Swiss cheese, a scrambled egg, and mayonnaise.  An open faced breakfast sandwich!  Yum.

Next we tried sourdough popovers.  The link to the recipe is here:  King Arthur Flour Sourdough Popovers Recipe.  You can see my daughter is a fan of the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.  She says they are all good and never had one fail.  This recipe I documented:

Sourdough Popovers

1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Only five ingredients!
1) In the microwave or in a small saucepan, warm the milk until it feels just slightly warm to the touch.

2) Combine the milk with the eggs, sourdough starter and salt, then mix in the flour.  Don't overmix; a few small lumps are OK.  The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.

A few small lumps exist


3) Heat a muffin or popover pan in the oven while it's preheating to 450 degrees F.

4) Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter.  Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top.  If you're using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top.  Space the popovers around so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.

Four fifths full?
5) Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.

They smell good, too.
6) Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.

Yield:  6 popovers.

Well, five popovers anyway.

Our Notes

This was easy to mix and took very little time.

We used a non-stick pan spray on a popover pan; I happened to have a spray that was designed for the high temperatures of grilling.

We used a ladle to put the batter in the cups but this was awkward and we spilled a little.  I would recommend trying something with a pouring spout, like a large, glass measuring cup.

We filled the cups nearly full but only got five popovers out of it.  I think we should have filled them each about 2/3 full to get six.

The Verdict

Success!  They were a beautiful golden brown and they slid out of the pan easily.

Their flavor was egg-y and a little sour from the sourdough starter.  They were chewy, with a good crust and full of holes, as they should be.  They had a good "pop."  Our guest taster is a fan of Yorkshire pudding and said these were very, very good.

We ate them hot with butter.  My daughter had one the next day, slightly warmed in the microwave oven, and thought it had fewer large air pockets.  That was the smallest one where the cup was only half full of batter.

Tomorrow I'll post the other adventure in sourdough baking.


We made them several times again over the next few weeks.  We mixed the batter in a large, glass measuring cup and it poured into the pans with a minimum of mess and drips.  It was also easier to get to six popovers, too.  It just took a bit of practice to judge the right quantity to put in the cups. Each and every batch popped well and was very tasty.

Batter fits nicely
Six achieved!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Four! Playing with Kitchen Toys

I am finding it hard to believe that I have completed three years of blogging.  When I first started I was skeptical that I could fulfill even one year, and yet here it is with over 13,300 page views from all over the world and this, the 87th post.  My blog is linked into Top Food Blogs at and into Tasty Query.  Each post goes on a Pinterest board, too.  All of these have helped make my fun more visible.  It would not have happened at all without my daughter's encouragement and computer support.  Thanks, Girlie!

One major change in my cooking is that my confidence levels for playing with recipes or just creating my own dishes has risen considerably.  I have read enough and practiced enough that I have ideas and concepts that can guide me through judging when a flavor seems "right" and what sorts of items to combine for a tasty meal.  Not everything I try works out but my successes far outnumber the failures.  I have a wonderful sense of freedom in the kitchen.

On this, my first posting for a new year, I like to set some goals.  This year has two:  to continue to explore historical or traditional recipes from a variety of countries, hopefully with a greater emphasis in using vegetables; and to explore some old kitchen gadgets to see how they are used.  With those in mind, I present to you a gadget that has been in my possession for years, mostly in storage, and I had no idea what it was designed for.

Lid on.
Lid off.
It is made of metal, in shiny chrome, has metal feet on the bottom, a flat cooking surface in the center, a well around that, a handle, a lid, and a flange on the raised rim.  Every time I saw it I wondered about its use.

I decided to figure it out.  My major clue was the manufacturer's stamp on the bottom:

The manufacturer was the Everedy Company, Frederick, Maryland, USA
It is called the Bacon-Egger, Jr., and a quick look around the 'net showed me that they were for sale in 1956: see this ad in the Spokane Daily Chronicle.  I think I inherited it from my grandparents, so this time period seems reasonable.

The description in the ad says, "Fries bacon, keeps it hot till eggs are done."  Ah ha!  Now I know what to do!

It is used on the stove top and first I cook the bacon.

Four half pieces fit comfortably on it.
The lid is used to keep the bacon flat and the well catches the grease.

The holes in the lid let out steam.
I was ambitious and cooking for three people, so I tried several batches of bacon.  Once cooked, the bacon went on the flange where it stayed warm without cooking and drained extra grease.

The problem was the well filled with grease and I couldn't drain it without removing the pieces from the side.  That means the cooking area flooded, more steam came through the holes making it too hot to hold the knob, and little geysers of hot grease erupted from the lid edges.

My conclusion is that this was designed to cook enough bacon for one to two people with built-in portion control!

I tried cooking one egg in the grease flood but didn't really like how it turned out.  I cooked it over-easy and thought it was too coated in bacon fat.
Room for two!
So I removed the bacon to a plate, drained off the excess grease, returned the bacon to the flange, and cooked a second egg.  It was much better.  Yes, the bacon stayed warm.

The Verdict

Overall it worked well. Success!  The only other issue I found was that it had two "hot spots" on the cooking surface which tended to cook items on them faster than the rest of the surface.  You can see some scorching to the right and left of the egg in the picture above.  I just had to be aware of them and make sure to move the food items around while cooking.

It was easy to clean and easy to drain off the excess bacon fat.

If you are a bacon and eggs fan, this is a handy gadget to have.  I saw them for sale on eBay for about $5.  I also think it might be a good pan for cooking crepes, but I'm not sure if the well will be a help or a hindrance.

I looked up the Everedy Company on the history of Fredrick website and found this description:
The Everedy Company was founded as the Everedy Bottle Capper Company in May of 1920. It began with a factory building on East Street in 1922, producing a range of metal items for domestic use, including “Speedy-clean chrome cooling utensils, Everedy Door Hardware, Everedy Home Bottling Equipment, Evercraft Modern Gift Merchandise.” This larger complex was completed in 1942 and connected the East Street buildings to the new warehouses on E Church Street Extended. The total complex had nearly doubled in size and took advantage of this space by securing numerous World War II manufacturing contracts.  After the war the Everedy Company produced “Anti-Tank Mines, navy Anti-submarine floats, grenades, grenade adapters, rocket parts, bomb parts.”
Remnants of the company's location still exist:
The buildings of Everedy Square were once the home of the Everedy Company, where the Everedy Bottle Capper was invented and manufactured. The product met with national success following the enactment of Prohibition. Prospering for 50 years, The Everedy Company ultimately produced a line of kitchenware that is still used in many households today.
(Citation:  Everedy Square)

I even found a legal description of Everedy's wares on Trademarkia, showing the trademark was first in use in 1936.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé

I like to reserve the final posting of the calendar year for a favorite recipe of mine, whether or not it is historical.  This one has been a favorite for over ten years and a great way to serve up sweet potatoes any time but particularly during the holidays.

It is from The Mount Vernon Cookbook, published by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, which I purchased in 1999 while visiting Mount Vernon.  At the time I thought it was a collection of historical recipes all from George Washington's era but now I see it more as a ladies' club collection with Virginia vibes.  This is not a complaint!  The few I have tried have been excellent.
ISBN 0-931917-13-1
On page 128 is the Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé.  It serves 6 to 8 and is tasty without being sweet.

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups applesauce
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
4 eggs, separated

Two more eggs joined the party later
Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Add to applesauce with orange rind.  Mix well.  Combine sweet potatoes, salt, applesauce mixture and butter.  Add beaten egg yolks.

All but the whites
Beat egg whites stiff and fold into applesauce-sweet potato mixture.

Whites gently folded in
Pile lightly into greased 3-quart casserole.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve immediately
My Notes

Turn on the oven to preheat before you get started.  Get the eggs separated, too, so the whites can warm up a bit before you beat them.  I put the whites right into the bowl in which they will be beaten.

I either bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or cook them in the microwave.  This is done in advance so you can peel and mash them easily.

Start with a big bowl for the sugar and cinnamon and add everything to it in order.  That way you have enough room through to the end!

It is important to mix in stages as described.  This gives the sweet potatoes a chance to get very mashed and blended with the other ingredients.

The recipe calls for a 3-quart casserole but I have used a 2-quart without any problems.

I keep the oven door closed while it is cooking although I check it at about 40 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too brown.  The center might jiggle when it is still hot but the dish is cooked thoroughly when a knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The Verdict

Success!  This is a very light and tasty way to serve sweet potatoes.  The applesauce adds a bit of sweet and the orange peel is an excellent flavor complement.  The cinnamon is just enough to hint without competing for attention.

The texture is fluffy and delicate when hot. An excellent accompaniment to ham, turkey, or chicken and is even better with a side serving of cranberry sauce.

The leftovers are also very good cold.

I've made this with freshly grated orange zest, dried orange zest, and no orange at all.  They were all excellent!

Here's how I served the soufflé at my dinner, with a slice of spiral cut ham and a sauce of brown mustard mixed with bitter orange marmalade, mixed well and heated:

Along with a tossed green salad, delicious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Sauerkraut as Made in Kolozsvár -- Transylvania

My last post was on a dessert recipe from Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine:

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
After I made it I thought, "Only dessert?  I need a main course to go along with it!"  Strolling through the rest of the book brought me to a layered sauerkraut dish listed as "... one of the old, popular Transylvanian dishes.  It is mentioned in the very first gastronomic writings, such as Miklós Misztófalusy-Kis' book written in 1695."

Wow!  Historical, which means it is possible my grandfather could have tasted this dish.  Of course I had to give it a try.  I made a half of this recipe because that is what fit the amount of sauerkraut I already had in the house.

Kolozsvári Rakott Káposzta (page 150)

4 pounds sauerkraut, drained (some juice reserved)
3/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons rendered lard
1 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
10 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream, mixed together
4 ounces sliced smoked bacon

More than enough for a half recipe
Heat the sauerkraut with some of its juice; when done, press out all the juice.

In a skillet, saute' the rice in 1 tablespoon lard until glossy.  Add broth, and cook until nearly done but still firm.

I called this "glossy."  The grains were white, not translucent
In another skillet, saute' the chopped onion for 5 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon lard.  Add the minced pork and brown it for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork.  Then remove from the heat and add paprika.

In a greased ovenproof casserole, place one third of the hot sauerkraut, half the rice, half the pork mixture, and one third of the sausage.  Sprinkle with half the sour cream mixtures.

The first layer before the sour cream sauce went on
Make another layer the same as above, then cover with the remaining sauerkraut.  Decorate the top with remaining sausage and the bacon.

Top with the remaining sour cream mixture.

Cover and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

My Notes

I was aiming for a half recipe; it turns out I needed the full cup of broth (I used dissolved bullion) to get the rice cooked enough.  I also used a bit more than 5 ounces of sausage because I covered each layer with it, enough to make it look good and not stingy, so I used more than a third each time.

My healthy choice was vegetable shortening over lard.  *Sigh*  Sorry, Grandfather.

I noticed that when I mixed the sour cream and heavy cream until no more lumps appeared, the mixture got very thick, so "sprinkling" it was out of the question.  I spread it around with a spoon.

I had to guess what a "moderately hot oven" was; I chose 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I didn't feel the dish was hot enough after 20 minutes, so I kept it in another 15 or so and that worked out well.

The Verdict

This was unexpectedly tasty.  I thought I would like it but the flavor combination was just ... something that danced on my taste buds and tingled, making me want to eat more and more.  My guest taster felt the same way.  I would describe it as slightly sour and salty from the 'kraut, chewy and meaty from all the pork, subtly spicy from the paprika, and creamy delicious from the sauce.

The only thing that bothered us was the bacon was not specified to be cooked before putting into the oven and it wasn't really cooked much even after 35 minutes.  We both felt a bit squeamish finding it that way in our portions.  Maybe it would have cooked better if my oven had been hotter or the sour cream sauce had been runnier.  Or perhaps the recipe was missing the instructions to cook the bacon in advance like all the other ingredients.

I want more!
Still, it was a resounding success.  I had the leftovers over the next few days and loved it all over again.  After I reheated it, I added a spoonful of sour cream just to gild the lily.  Another guest taster tried the leftovers and thought it was delightful.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hideg Citrom Koch -- Cold Lemon Koch (Transylvania)

A decade or so ago I found out that one of my grandfathers grew up in the part of Romania known as Transylvania.  His heritage was German but his home town was pretty close to the Bran Castle, also called "Dracula's Castle" because of the story of the vampire Count Dracula, a fictitious character created by Bram Stoker.  The castle described in the book is very similar to the Bran Castle and it is believed that Stoker used a picture of it found in a book to create his castle of horrors.  (See reference here.)

It just tickled me to think of my grandfather as a boy growing up on the stories of vampires and possibly being able to see the castle.  So one day, when I was walking through a library bookstore, I spotted Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine.  Published in 1985, it is a compilation of some of the 20,000 recipes Mr. Kovi collected on his research in the area.  I bought it without hesitation, hoping to find something of the culture in which my grandfather grew up.

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
In all honesty, I don't know if any of these recipes were something he experienced.  From what I have heard the Germans in the area were a tight-knit group, keeping to themselves, and preserving their language and culture.  But I like to imagine that he tasted some of these dishes and so I gave one a try.  Mr. Kovi notes that this "was a favorite of fine Saxon households."

Hideg Citrom Koch (page 338)

6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
1 envelope gelatin, dissolved in warm water
Butter for greasing mold
Fruit preserves (any flavor) for garnish

That is one big lemon
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and powdered sugar together.  Add the lemon juice and the grated peel.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, fold into the egg yolks, then stir in the dissolved gelatin.

Folded, not spindled
Butter a mold (such as a ring mold) lightly and pour in the mixture.

I measured it to be about 6 cups in volume
Chill until well set.  Turn the koch out of the mold and onto a platter.  Garnish with fruit preserves.

My Notes

You should notice that there are raw eggs in this dish as it is served.  The mixture is only chilled, not cooked!  I had confidence that the acid from the lemon juice would take care of any contamination problems.

Before I started mixing up the ingredients I grated the peel, juiced the lemon, and dissolved the gelatin in about two tablespoons very warm water.  It needed stirring a few times to get it completely dissolved.

I found it interesting that the gelatin was stirred in after you carefully fold in the stiff egg whites.  The purpose of folding is to incorporate the whites without deflating them, keeping your mixture light and fluffy.  Stirring in the gelatin afterwards seemed to be defeating that idea, but it really only reduced the volume a little bit.

I was pleased that the mixture filled my turban mold to a ring line.  I thought that would make the dish looked "finished" or at least planned.  I chilled it for about 3 hours but I think it was ready before that.

Once I ran some warm water over the outside and ran a dull knife around the edges, the koch slipped out of the mold onto a plate.  I thought it was pretty!

Not quite centered on the plate
The darker yellow part was where the eggs whites had separated from the yolk mixture.  I loved the contrast more than if the whole thing had been uniform in color.  The whole thing was very delicate so trying to center it would have broken it apart.

The fruit preserves I chose to garnish with were apricot.  This picture was taken right after I spooned some all around the top; honestly it looked better about 10 minutes later when the preserves had a chance to slide down the sides more.

The Verdict

Each piece was as light as a feather and fluffy soft.  It was very lemony in flavor and not too sweet, which is good.  My guest taster thought it was just right for the amount of tartness; for me, it was on the edge of too tart, especially with the tart apricot preserves with it.

I suspect my very large lemon had something to do with that.  Of course, that didn't stop me from eating it!  I just took my bites slowly to give my taste buds a chance to adjust.

It was so delicate and light that it did not feel filling.  It was cool and refreshing and the lemon zest gave it an interesting texture to contrast with the egg white fluffy feel.

We ate more than half after a hearty dinner of pork and sauerkraut -- that recipe will follow this one on December 1.

I declare it a success!  If I did it over again, I would use a smaller lemon and choose blackberry preserves as the garnish.

By the way, no one got ill from the raw eggs.  We just enjoyed the flavor!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Sweet Onions -- Tapping into the experiences of others

One category of cookbooks is the fundraiser book, where the members of a group contribute their favorite recipes.  This compilation is bound and sold to raise money for the group.  Quite often the group is a women's club or church organization.

I have several of these in my collection and I prize them for three reasons:  some have the names of people I know, some have recipes I've loved and lost in the past, and every one of them contains tried-and-true recipes.  Consider that these people know each other and tend to buy the books for themselves, too.  No one is going to submit a recipe that isn't proven wonderful!

The style of recipes depends on the age of the book.  You can see the shift in ingredient preferences over the decades, from canned soup casseroles to gelatin desserts to gluten-free anything.  You'll often find "throwbacks"; these are recipes that have been handed down over several generations of cooks and cherished despite current taste or health trends.

I also like the variations on recipes with which I am familiar, like three-bean salad and seven layer dip.  It is fun to see what others have done to substitute ingredients they were missing or just to enjoy a twist in the usual flavor.

I was attending a neighborhood potluck barbecue and felt like bringing something different, so I turned to my ladies' group collection.  I chose the Washington Stars Quilt Guild 10th Anniversary Cookbook, published in 2009 out of Olympia, Washington.  Are these recipes historical?  Probably not but I think this qualifies as General Foodie Fun (salute!).

The hosts were providing the burgers and hot dogs with condiments.  I knew many people would bring desserts and potato chips, so I focused on a side dish.  My choice was submitted by Pat Umino with an end note, "It was very popular at our potlucks."  How could I go wrong?

Creamy Sweet Onions (page 67)

5 large onions, white (sweet)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon celery salt *
salt and pepper to taste

*The body of the recipe calls for celery seed, which is what I used.

I switched to celery seed after I took this picture.
Thinly slice the onions and place in a large bowl.  In a saucepan combine the sugar, cider vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then pour over the sliced onions.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain onions, discarding the liquid.  In a bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, celery seed, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add the drained onions and toss to coat.

My Notes

My onions must have been very large because three of them sliced filled my large bowl.  I stopped there.  Mine were designated as white onions but not labeled as "sweet".  That did not turn out to be a problem.

Boiling the vinegar mix made an onion-scented kitchen smell very strong indeed.  I let the bowl of onions with liquid cool a bit before I covered it and placed it in the refrigerator.  Basically you are pickling the onions!

The next day, a few hours before the party, I drained the onions, mixed the sauce, and loved the contrast of the celery seeds against the white onions and white sauce.

Just before stirring
The Verdict

Yes, it was a hit!  I noticed that the people who like peppers, chilies, and other strong-flavored foods liked it the most.  One woman said she put it on top of her hamburger patty as a condiment.  I didn't label what it was so people were guessing a noodle salad at first, then they thought coleslaw, and then they realized it was onions.

I would put this in the category of "onion coleslaw".  The creamy sauce mixes with the little bit of vinegar pickling liquid that clings to the drained onions.  Adding the celery seed just pushes that creamy-sweet-sour mixture right into the coleslaw range.  The onion flavor became milder with the pickling process yet still retained some crunchiness that made it exciting to eat.

I liked it!  It isn't my favorite because it was a stronger onion taste than I usually seek out but I would eat it again.  If I were to make it more for me, I would use half onions and half cabbage.  Of course I like sauerkraut and pickled red cabbage, too, so that would be a bonus for me.

Success!  Tasty!  Give it a try!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The fourth filling (somewhat English)

See the previous post from September 1 for the dough recipe and first filling recipe, the September 15 one for the second filling, and also the October 1 one for the third filling.

My daughter and I decided to experiment with 14th and 15th century recipes for raviolis.  We had to redact the recipes ourselves, working from the lists given but having to figure out quantities by taste and goal.

We were working from a website that looked like a good class handout for a Society for Creative Anachronism workshop, called "Pasta Class" and found at this link:

After successfully redacting three fillings for boiled raviolis, we decided to try a fried version.  The Pasta Class document lists some fried raviolis and some other books we perused mentioned them, too.  We wanted something sweet, so we adapted the recipe for Emeles, a medieval almond cake, as the filling.

England + Italy = Middle East

2.5 ounces ground almonds
1/2 ounce graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons honey

Mix the ingredients well.  Like in the previous filling recipe, we chose not to use an egg to bind the mixture for two reasons:  one was that we made a small amount of filling and one egg might have been too much and the other was that the honey seemed to be doing a good job of binding by itself.  It went into the refrigerator while we worked on the dough.

We used graham cracker crumbs because I already had them handy.  Dried bread crumbs would work well, too.

The mixture turned out to look like what we expected for the Emeles:

Nutty, sweet, and spiced
We made a second batch of dough only this time I added a tablespoon of sugar to the flour.  By the way, I had to add a lot more flour to the recipe to get the right texture for rolling.  I am convinced the original recipe contains a typo.

We rolled the entire batch out into a rectangle, cut it in half, and covered one half with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.  

We scored the bottom dough and portioned out the filling.  Oops!  There was not enough filling for what we planned, so we used some of the leftover cheddar/bacon/chicken filling for the rest.

I should have doubled the filling amounts as I had first planned
Then we wet the scored edges and placed the top dough, pushing out the air and making neat little packets, then cut them apart.

This time I fried them a few at a time in about 1/4 inch of hot vegetable oil until they were a delightful brown on both sides and crispy.

Too many at once and the oil has a hard time staying at the right temperature
After that I drained them on paper towels and dusted them with a cinnamon and cardamom sugar mix.

The Verdict

This was incredibly tasty.  In fact, they tasted like mini-baklavas!  We were not expecting that and it was quite a treat.  They were crispy, spicy-sweet, and nutty with a depth of flavor from the honey.  They were not greasy -- I credit frying only a few at a time.


The only thing I would change is that we didn't roll the dough out to be as thin as we had for the boiled raviolis.  It wasn't translucent.  I think the raviolis would have been crispier if we had.  I'm not complaining, mind you!  They were delicious.  I would do it again to surprise people with the flavor.

One thought:  If I were feeling lazy or in a hurry, I might use purchased won-ton skins instead.  They are thin and pre-cut and I know they fry up well.