Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

chickenscallopine.jpgItalian food isn't just all about pasta and tomato sauce. Much of it is simple and rustic home-style cooking, like simple sautes and slow braises. The recipes I like the most are both simple and elegant, such as scaloppine, which involves cooking thin pieces of meat. All that the word scaloppine means is thin piece of meat. Veal or chicken are commonly used in classic recipes. The meat is breaded, fried, and then served in a sauce, such as a piccata, which features white wine, capers, and lemon.

What's great about a recipe like scaloppine is that it's great for dinner for two or a large family gathering. It's a perfect dish for a quick weeknight meal because it's fast and easy. I update the classic recipe by replacing the breading with just Wondra flour. The low-protein flour creates a brown exterior that's light and just thin enough so as not to get soggy. Plus I don't add the chicken to the sauce. This way the coating stays crisp as long as possible. Simply serve the sauce spooned over the chicken and enjoy it right away.

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ImageI could eat spaghetti and meatballs every night of the week. Of course my laundry bill would be astronomical. There are cleaning products for removing every possible stain including wine, coffee, ink and blood, but no one has invented a product to remove spaghetti sauce stains. Not yet anyway.

This recipe came about as part of my effort to "eat down the freezer." I had a package of two Italian sausages and some ground beef on hand, but neither were really enough to make a meal. The secret to these meatballs is a combination of pork and beef and also what you use to stretch the meat, plenty of bread and milk. The bread and milk create a very tender texture. Italian sausages have lots of seasoning and fat so you really don't need to add much more in that department though some fresh herbs are nice. I do like using dehydrated toasted onion flakes. I get them from Penzey's and they are great in dishes like this where normally I would want to saute fresh onions. They have good flavor and are a real time saver.

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brie_and_pesto_fondue.jpgThere was a time when gathering people around a fondue pot to cook their own food was very popular. It was the 1970's I think – about the same time I got married. My husband and I recieved three of these "communal" pots as wedding gifts. I think I remember using one or two of them one or two times soon after the wedding. And then they sat. For years.

My experience with fondue was very limited. I remember going to a Minneapolis restaurant with my parents on special occasions where they would serve a a bowl of cheese fondue warming over the flame of a tiny tea candle. Each table of diners would recieve this bowl of melted deliciousness along with a basket of crunchy, house-made garlic croutons. As a young girl, the process of poking one of those toasted chunks with a long, slender fork and dunking it into the warm cheese before popping it into my mouth, felt quite elegant.

And, I do remember a couple of times when my parents had friends over for a "fondue party." It was a long, drawn-out affair, with the meal lasting for hours as each person skewered a piece of meat with a fondue fork and placed it into a fondue pot full of hot, bubbling oil to cook. It's definitely not fast-food. And it's not a meal in 30 minutes or less. It's slow food.

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tamarindribsRibs are undoubtedly a cornerstone of American summer barbecues, especially in the South where it's practically an art form. Die-hard 'cue masters will argue there's a difference between barbecue and grilling. And there is: Barbecue is a low and slow process of cooking meat in a smoky humid environment.

Grilling is about quick contact-cooking. Steaks and burgers are grilling. Ribs and pork shoulder are barbecue. Barbecue can be broken down further into wet and dry versions. It's pretty self-explanatory but the debate as to which is better is one that will never be decided upon. The secret is in the sauce—or is it the rub?

What most Americans know as barbecue is based on the wet barbecue technique that originated in Kansas City. Large food brands further popularized wet barbecue with their lines of sauces. Wet barbecue is all about the sauce whereas dry barbecue is all about the rub. No thick sauce is used to baste the meat except for a mop sauce (typically made with vinegar, which helps keep the meat moist). You'll find dry barbecue in Memphis, where they serve sauce on the side for dipping, but you will never see it slathered on the meat. Most at-home barbecue includes a combination of both dry and wet methods.

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strawberrycharlotte.jpgLeave it to my grandmother’s generation to have a delicious dessert with gelatin. A standby ingredient of the “greatest generation,” gelatin is often forgotten these days. Yet, this one ingredient provides a fantastic texture and appearance for dessert dishes. Strawberry Charlotte Russe is an “oldie but goodie,” for its name is derivative of Russian royalty and French culinary prowess.

With strawberries coming into season here in the Deep South, this Farmer is exploring a few old faithful recipes. A Charlotte Russe is delicious with any in season berry (black, blue or rasp) but especially good with strawberries. Though there are methods of ringing the mousse like dessert with additional lady fingers, tying with ribbons, and presenting in more formal fashions, I simply prefer to mound this delicacy in a pretty serving dish, scoop onto lovely dessert serving pieces, eat and enjoy the very essence of the season. There is something special about using family pieces, and my Mimi’s great Aunt Mamie's china is just the token for a dainty dessert. Though highly elegant, this dessert is severely easy to prepare and it's sure to be a hit with you and yours.

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