Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

My Gluten Garden

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

pico-blvd1I felt my big toe push a hole through my fishnet stockings as I stepped on the gas and drove south on Fairfax. I nibbled on the broken corner of my dark red thumb nail and made a right turn onto Pico Boulevard.  I thought about lighting a cigarette to calm myself but didn’t.

I was driving to see “Vertigo Road”, a band that my recently ex-fiance and I knew quite well and my social fears were getting the best of me.  They were playing at a bar with one of those anti-esoteric names I can’t remember exactly, like “The Place”, or “The Gig”, or “The Thing”. 

It was an unseasonably cool night for Los Angeles in early September so, when the closest parking space I found was 8 blocks from the bar, I knew I wouldn’t mind walking.  I flipped down the mirrored visor to check my lipstick and stared at my reflection for a moment.  I hadn’t seen many of these people since the break up and I knew they would search my face and demeanor for clues as to how I was doing.  I wanted to look amazing.  I wanted to seem like I had it all figured out.  I knew that was going to take some effort.  I applied more lipstick.

When I turned off my Honda, it suddenly sounded like I had parked in a war zone.  Sirens screamed and glass shattered.  I was overtaken by the smell in the air.  It was luscious and earthy and charred.  I shut my eyes and gulped the aroma down for a moment and then walked quickly toward the commotion on Pico.  It was a fire.  A big one.  And as mesmerizing as the flames were, nothing could compare to the smell.

The Perfect Paella

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by Brenda Athanus

A couple of summer months filled with many beachside lunches of paella so good and so long ago that I am still chasing the memories of a perfect paella. My sister and I were in the Catalonian village of Arenys de Mar for a good part of the summer. On the wide, white beach surrounded by rugged hills were a handful of rustic 'restaurants' that made only paella over wood fires. They were makeshift structures covered with bright pieces of miss-matched canvas tacked down to keep the strong Spanish sun and ocean breeze at bay. These little makeshift restaurants were always busy for lunch, the only meal that they served and I had my favorite one.

The beach side paella restaurateurs were waiting like gulls as the little boats motored back to port around 10 o’clock in the morning. Each boat filled with the fresh caught fish and shellfish still moving violently seeking to be set free. There was fish to fillet and chunk, stock to make, onions and peppers to chop and most importantly the wood-fire had to be started, time was of the essence.

My favorite restaurant had a round stone fire pit built on the sand. A variety of wood collected from the beach was piled into the pit covering yesterday's scrunched up newspaper which was barely visible in the center. A wooden match was struck and the day's cooking commenced. When the flames burned down, the cook balanced a grill on top of the stone pit. A large battered and blackened pot half full of seawater was slid over the roaring fire; cups of peeled garlic cloves, mounds of chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and all the fish heads, bones and shrimp shells we're rhythmically tossed in. All the odds and ends from the daily catch found their way into the pot. The pot of stock was never allowed to boil once the seawater was poured into the caldron. It was hardly stirred to keep it from getting murky. As the fish water turned to stock and smelled less raw the seagulls overhead disappeared.

Foil Wrapped Haddock with Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Zucchini

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by James Moore

halibuttomsTraditionally this fish would be cooked in parchment paper, and opened at the table (See NY Times article: "The Envelope Please: Cooking En Papillote") but I find the task somewhat tedious and prefer the much easier-to-use aluminum foil.

Haddock or Cod work best in this recipe and the few simple ingredients make it easy to throw together – especially in the summer when the zucchini is abundant and the tomatoes are at peak flavor.

You can make the fish packets ahead and just bake them when you’re ready for dinner.

Drunken Mussels with Leek and Lovage

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by Joseph Erdos

musselsleeksFor me there's nothing more representative of the ocean than shellfish, particularly the beautiful blue mussel. I have always had an affinity for the ocean, and before my foray into marine biology, I was first and foremost a young curious kid who avidly collected shells to learn all about them. As a kid though I wouldn't eat mussels, or any shellfish for that matter; I thought they were just too beautiful or too gross. Now I can hardly remember a time that I didn't love eating shellfish. Ever since my first time having moules marinière, I have been in love with the sweet briny flavor of mussels. With a slice of crusty bread in hand, I now dive into a bowl of mussels with conviction.

That flavor marries perfectly with white wine and garlic, the basis for preparing moules in any of the Mediterranean countries. In this recipe, I augment those traditional flavors with the addition of slowly sautéed leeks for a sweet onion flavor and a unique fresh celery-like herb, lovage. This cousin of celery most resembles a cross between celery and parsley, both in appearance and in taste. An interesting fact is that the spice commonly sold as dried celery seed is actually lovage seed. As a fresh herb, lovage lends a bright flavor to foods, and just a few sprigs can add wonderful flavor profiles to soups and stews. Here in this recipe, it replaces the more traditionally used parsley just for one final twist.

Mango Mustard Chicken

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by Amy Sherman

mangomustardchickenRecently I was at a dinner hosted by Maille, an award-winning brand of Dijon style mustard that's been around for 265 years. Mustard was used in everything from cocktails to dessert. Mustard adds complexity and brightness and can be used in the background or front and center, it all depends on the dish. It also seems to balance out sweetness, adding pungency and acidity.

As luck would have it, the National Mango Board sent me a box of luscious mangoes and I was instantly inspired. Mangos and mustard! I'm happy to say this recipe for Mango Mustard Chicken was a smashing success from the very first try. The sauce of mango, sautéed onion, mustard and honey is tangy, sweet, spicy and so good you won't be able to stop eating it! The pungency of the mustard is tempered by the sweetness of the mango and honey. I bet it would be good on a roast pork loin as well.

My Favorite Parisian Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron)

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by James Moore

tarteaucitronWhen I was a student living in Paris, one of my favorite rituals was to treat myself to a tiny lemon tart at a local patisserie after class. There were dozens of shops to choose from along my walk from the Sorbonne to my small apartment near the Place des Victoires.

If I was feeling extravagant I would stop by Fauchon near the Place de la Madeleine, and leave with a lemon tart boxed in their trademark hot pink packaging and black and white bag; otherwise, there were plenty of other neighborhood shops that offered tasty tarts at a more reasonable price.

I still love a lemony dessert, especially at the end of a great meal. This is one of my favorite recipes - very lemony, but with a rich creamy filling. It’s from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham and is the best version I’ve had outside of Paris – the zest in the filling and in the crust gives it a great burst of lemon flavor.

Raspberry Mini Trifles

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by Joseph Erdos

raspberrytrifleThe bounty from the berry bushes in my backyard has been great this year. I was able to make another quart of red currant jelly just like last year. The raspberry bushes yielded so much fruit that the options for consumption were unlimited. I wanted to make something more special than jam and it was impossible to eat all the berries fresh. I decided upon making a trifle, one of the most elegant and almost bake-free deserts. Instead of one big trifle, I made six individual trifles for a light dessert to end a recent summer gathering. These personal-size trifles are perfect for those who don't like to share dessert and since there are no seconds, they're guilt-free too.

I had never eaten nor ever heard of a trifle until I traveled to England. Once I had a taste of it there, I immediately became a fan. A week wouldn't go by without a need for me to satisfy my craving for the beautifully layered treat. So I ended up becoming a die-hard devotee of store-bought trifles from Marks & Spencer. Sold in little sealed cups, they were the ideal dessert for me who was always on the go. Every time I passed by a store I would be sure to stop in for either a raspberry or strawberry trifle. I was quite the trifle addict.

Smoky Tomato Soup

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by Amy Sherman

tomsoupIt's easy to get so caught up in the idea of eating seasonally that we forget that there are certain things that aren't necessarily seasonal, for example vegetables grown in hothouses or greenhouses like Belgian endive, cucumbers and mushrooms, also preserved produce--jams, pickles, chutney, frozen and canned foods. Which brings me to canned tomatoes, which are a great choice for recipes since fresh tomatoes are in season for a fairly short period of time.

While I wouldn't use a canned tomato on a sandwich, they are a must for most tomato based sauces. Lately I've come to appreciate canned fire roasted tomatoes for their lovely smoky flavor. They are great in stew or chili and a sneaky shortcut when making this zippy soup. A nice option in this shoulder season when somedays still feel like Winter, it's something you can make from pantry staples--a few aromatics, cans of tomatoes and broth. Having tried many brands of fire roasted tomatoes, I like Hunt's best and while I prefer homemade, Swanson's is the only canned chicken broth I use.

Another little trick in this soup is the addition of cream cheese. I don't typically keep heavy cream on hand so I am always looking for other ingredients to add creaminess to recipes. In this case a tiny bit of cream cheese adds a lot of richness. But in all honesty this soup is really wonderful even without it.

The Monte Cristo Sandwich

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by Susan Russo

montecristoA Monte Cristo consists of ham, turkey or chicken, and Swiss cheese sandwiched between two slices of white or challah bread that is dipped in an egg batter, then grilled or fried in butter until golden brown. It is often dusted with confectioners’ sugar and served with a side of red currant jelly.

The Monte Cristo is an American version of the Croque-Monsieur, the famed French grilled cheese and ham sandwich that is fried in clarified butter. The sandwich first appeared on the menu at Gordon’s, a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, but it didn't get its big break until Disneyworld got involved. When the Blue Bayou Restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean put the Monte Cristo on its menu, its popularity soared.

I hadn't eaten a Monte Cristo since I was a kid, and I didn't remember particularly loving it. My, how things have changed. This sandwich has it all: it's sweet, salty, and chewy. It's addictive.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

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by Amy Sherman

blackberrycakeWhen a wine is described as "jammy" I always think of blackberries. Rich, ripe, fruity flavors so intense they almost taste more cooked than fresh. Blackberries, when fully ripe and sweet, not sour, taste like jam to me. Jammy also means "lucky" according to an Australian English dictionary I recently consulted. I think one slice of this cake will make you feel very lucky indeed! I certainly feel lucky to have gotten the berries from my friend Alton who brought them back from his mountain cabin hideaway, Shadow Woods.

I'm assuming since you are visiting this site, that you probably use the internet to find recipes. I sure do. One thing I particularly find useful are the reader comments. For example the recipes on Epicurious often have suggestions from readers on changes and improvements they have made to the posted recipes. Sometimes their suggestions make sense, though not always.

This recipe started out as one I found online, but based on reader comments, a little experimenting, and ultimately my own experience I made it my own. How different is it from the original?


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