Portraits of My Family in the Kitchen

lambmint.jpgI have been thinking about all the recipes of everyone I know and it is so funny and interesting the way their personalities play into everything so well and say so much. 

Like my Dad is so unassuming - until you know him and then - surprise!  Under the surface - glittering and colorful and baroque - just like his vegetable soup.  Such an unassuming classic - but in the hands of my Dad - an event people wait for!  I call it, "Dad's Baroque Vegetable soup."

My Mother, definitely "Lamb with mint sauce."  So-o-o-o rarified and neat and ultimately delicious.  No messes in the kitchen when she cooks.

My sister in law - tomato stuffed with bell peppers.  Kind of bitter sweet. 



Dad’s Baroque Vegetable Soup,  from the jazzer upper of hotwheels and other baroque things Al Baginski.  Serves up to 10 or more people at one time. 

One morning when the weather is coolish or the evenings are cool and the mood hits you and everyone agrees – it is time for a big 5 gallon pot of soup!  It is great the day of and to warm up bowls of as the week goes on with some cheese and some bread.  Eat while watching a good TV program and a fire in the fireplace.  Make sure to wear a bib.   A kitchen towel works well.  (We have cute kitchen towels.)

1.    Clear off the counters in preparation for the grocery trip

2.    Go to the grocery store.  My Dad goes to the meat department first and finds a nice pot roast.  Any roasting or really any meat will do. (It can usually be a lower cost per pound), and can be bone in or bone out (usually bone out).  Then he gets a piece about 1.5 or 2 pounds whatever is good. 

3.    Then he goes to the vegetable department and get lots of carrots (about 2-3 pounds) and celery and a rutabaga, medium to large, and (make sure) onions, parsnip, (optional) maybe also Italian squash, (optional) and about a medium size head of cabbage.  My Dad likes the red.  That is it.  You can always add whatever else looks good like shallots, bean sprouts, green beans 

4.    Then go to canned area.  Get a large can of chopped tomatoes and another large can of crushed tomatoes.  Or instead of one in the cans you can use a bottle of pasta sauce.

5.    Add garlic chopped up, about one whole cluster of cloves or half to one cluster of garlic.

6.    Throw some olive or canola oil in the bottom of a big aluminum pot (a 3-5 gallon) my Dad washes the meat first, then puts the meat in, then turns the heat on to brown the meat on both sides.  Brown the meat with chopped up onions (or add onions later) Keep onions on the side of the meat while the meat is browning so it browns evenly.

7.    Throw in the two cans of tomatoes or the pasta sauce and chopped tomatoes.  Add another can or two of water in addition. 

8.    Cover and turn it to medium to low heat (more on the medium) and low boil for 2.5 hours or until the meat is easily shredded.

9.    As the meat simmers chop up two pounds of carrots (my Dad doesn’t peel the carrots – just washes them) and an 6-7 stalks of celery chopped up, and also throw in some celery leaves for seasoning - 3-4 good sized leaves for flavoring

10.    then chop up garlic finely dice or put through a garlic press

11.    cut up some small potatoes (dad leaves the skins on but that is optional

12.    chop up a parsnip

13.    peel and chop up a rutabaga in to quarter inch or less pieces

14.    add the green beans cut to ¾ inch length

15.    then add a couple of bay leaves (2-3) to the veggies and some pepper and salt to taste

16.    add a little bit of cloves

17.    Either regular or red cabbage (my dad likes red) chopped.  A whole small or medium head.

18.    My dad also throws in a little rosemary and you can throw in some oregano.

19.    Actually my dad throws in various things that are in my Mothers spice cabinet.  Basil is good to add along with everything else too. Rosemary is a very good one.  You can find it around town fresh as you take walks.

20.    Then after 2.5 hours and the meat is tender my dad dumps in all the vegetables on top of the meat (sometimes my dad takes out the meat just prior to this and chops that up into bite size pieces and mixes it all together).

21.    Then my dad adds more water to make it into a thick soupy consistency as desired, then sets it to boil, then brings it down to a low boil (because my Dad is an engineer and to conserve energy says that a low boil is the same temperature as a high boil) for ½ hour.

22.     Then serve.  

23.    That’s it.  You can add more water if you want a thinner soup later and it makes a big pot of soup probably good for up to a week.  Get French bread and butter and dip in the soup.

24.    Excellent and tastily fulfilling meal!!!!

Sometimes you might also throw in a handful of sugar and 1/8 to ¼ cup of vinegar at almost any point.

For dessert have either apple tart or chocolate lava cake with ice cream.

Shirley’s Breast of Lamb or lamb ribs

My mother served this at my Aunts Baby shower back in the 1960’s in Chicago.

3 lbs Breast of lamb or lamb ribs
1 can (8oz tomato sauce)
½ lb fresh mushrooms sliced
½ cup honey
½ cup dry sherry
½ cup hot bouillon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Trim lamb of excess fat/ Place on rack in shallow pan.  Bake in moderate oven (350° F – 1 ½ hours) Drain off drippings.  Combine all other ingredients and pour over lamb.  Cook about 45 minutes, longer basting frequently.  Makes 4 servings. 

Lee used to have a big salad or cole slaw with this.  No dessert.  She didn’t do that.  She would just have good sourdough bread.