Caramel Icing

July 22, 2007

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When I was growing up in Iowa, I used to eat the icing and leave the cake. SAM

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add the milk. Remove from the heat and cool. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat in the confectioner’s sugar until thick enough to spread.
Makes 1 1/2 cups or enough to frost one 13 x 9 x 2-inch flat cake.


Apple-Raisin Cake

July 21, 2007

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When you need a great picnic cake but don’t have time to do more than stir one together, make this. Because it calls for oil rather than shortening, you won’t even have to get out your mixer. And … because you bake it—and ice it—in a 9 by 13-inch pan, it can’t fall apart in transport. SAM

3 eggs, beaten frothy
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large tart apples, peeled and diced (2 cups)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and beat well. Stir in the apples, pecans, and raisins. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack and ice in the pan with Caramel Icing or serve un-iced with vanilla ice cream.
Makes 20 servings.


Pickled Slaw

July 20, 2007

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As long as we’re making favorites, here’s my favorite slaw. Don’t worry if it looks like there’s not enough dressing at first. As the cabbage pickles in the fridge, it gives up lots of juice. This slaw is especially good with Baked Beans, hot dogs, and hamburgers. I also like it with curried red dal. More on that great dish later. SAM

1/2 head cabbage (1 1/2 pounds)
1 large sweet onion
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup white or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon celery seeds

Thinly slice the cabbage and onion and combine in a medium mixing bowl. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the oil, vinegar, honey, and celery seed and bring to a full boil. Pour the boiling dressing over the cabbage-onion mixture and stir thoroughly. Press down the slaw with a plate and place a 5-pound weight on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerator for two days, stirring once a day. Remove the plate and weight and seal in an airtight container. The slaw will keep in the fridge for two weeks.
Makes 10 servings.


Cauliflower-Bell Pepper Chowchow

July 19, 2007

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Chowchow is chopped vegetables pickled in mustard sauce. The word comes from the Mandarin word ‘chao,’ to stir-fry. You can make it out of anything from onions and summer squash to sweet corn and green tomatoes. This cauliflower-bell pepper version is the best I’ve ever eaten. Spoon it on baked beans or any kind of dried beans. It’s also great with curries and chicken. SAM

4 teaspoons salt, divided
Water for boiling
1 small cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets (4 cups)
3 large green bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped (3 cups)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1 large onion, diced (1 cup)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar, divided
4 1-pint canning jars with lids

The first day: Fill a large kettle 3/4 full of water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Blanch the cauliflower, peppers, and onion by dipping in the boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain the vegetables, place them in a cloth bag, and hang them outside or over a sink or tub to drip overnight.

The second day: In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 3 teaspoons salt, flour, mustard, turmeric, celery seed, sugar, and 1 cup vinegar. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 2 cups vinegar and cook until thick and smooth. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water and spoon in the drained vegetables, leaving 1 inch of headroom. Cover with the mustard sauce, screw on the lids, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Makes 4 pints.


Baked Beans

July 18, 2007

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You can’t rush baked beans—and you’ll be so happy you didn’t! Most of the time, though, is in the slow baking. Use canned beans and you can stir this together in a jiffy. SAM

1 pound dried navy beans, or 3 (15-ounce) cans navy beans
Water for soaking and cooking
1 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare dried beans: Sort and rinse the dried beans and soak overnight, covered with cold water. Drain the soaking water, place the beans in a large Dutch oven or chef’s pan over medium-low heat, and add the bacon and fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Drain the beans and bacon, reserving 2 cups liquid.

To prepare canned beans: drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large Dutch oven or chef’s pan over medium-low heat with the bacon and 2 cups fresh water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the beans and bacon, reserving 2 cups liquid.

In a 4-quart, oven-proof casserole, combine the beans and bacon mixture, sugar, molasses, mustard, ketchup, lemon juice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 cups reserved liquid. Cover and bake for 6 hours at 275 degrees F.
Makes 8 servings.


Deviled Eggs

July 17, 2007

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I don’t know why something so heavenly would be called ‘deviled,’ but you can ‘devil’ eggs with anything from capers to anchovies to chipotle peppers. This is a very basic, summer picnic-type version. Master it, and you’ll be halfway to Paradise. SAM

12 eggs
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sweet pickle juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Hungarian paprika

In a large pan, cover the eggs with water. Put on the lid, bring to a boil, and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs sit, still covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Submerge them in cold water for 5 minutes. Peel them, slice them in half lengthwise, and remove the yolks. In a small bowl, mash the yolks with a fork. Stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, pickle juice, salt, and pepper. Fill the whites with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
Makes 24 deviled eggs.


Quesadillas

July 16, 2007

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Promise me Quesadillas and I’ll follow you to any ballpark. SAM

1 (15-ounce package) flour tortillas (10 tortillas)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1/4 cup drained, pickled jalapeño pepper slices
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
Salsa
Guacamole
Sour Cream

To make each quesadilla, spread 1/4 cup cheese and several pepper slices on one tortilla and top with another tortilla. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hazy and sauté each quesadilla 3 or 4 minutes per side, pressing down with a large spoon or spatula until the cheese is melted. Add more oil if needed for additional quesadillas. Cut into wedges and top with salsa, Guacamole, and/or sour cream. Serve hot.
Makes 5 quesadillas.