Celebrity cookbooks are less common these days than they used to be. Recently a friend recommended Frank DeCaro’s The Dead Celebrity Cookbook. This book resurrects recipes from more than 145 stars of stage and screen. Don’t let the book’s title, or its unfortunate skull and crossbones cover, scare you away.
Given my interest in music, I found myself drawn to artists like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Others you might enjoy reading about in this book are Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Eartha Kitt, Michael Jackson and John Wayne, among others. The recipes are accompanied by interesting short bios of the stars.
St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of St. Patrick, celebrated each year on the 17th of March, is considered both a cultural and religious holiday. It commemorates the birth of Christianity in Ireland through the success and devotion of a British lad of 16 named Patrick who became its champion in Ireland. The young boy arrived on the Irish shores as a consequence of Irish raiders who kidnapped him to become a slave. In the process Patrick, soon to become St. Patrick, witnessed the poverty and pagan beliefs of a people whose destiny was to radically change. He escaped after a few years but returned to become a priest and driving force to convert a population of idol worshiping people to the Catholic Church.
The day called St. Patrick’s Day became a feast day in the 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. The holiday has become more secular over the years especially in communities with large numbers of Irish who emigrated from the Olde Sod. Large populations of Irish can be found in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. But the holiday is also followed in other parts of the world like Japan, Montserrat in the Caribbean, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland and Argentina where they dance and only drink beer throughout the night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Would it surprise you to learn that the dish that’s synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish in the U.S. is so rarely eaten in Ireland? In fact the Irish tell us that corned beef and cabbage is not an American dish at all; and, the Irish in Ireland don’t claim it as their own, says Malachi McCormick in Irish Country Cooking.
“[It’s a] New World dish…associated with many awful versions served in bars in the U.S.—washed down with plastic cups of green beer,” he writes.
Many years ago in the early days of rock and roll, Trini Lopez, one of the genre’s first Latin success stories, sang about lemons. Lemons are one of my favorite foods because they remind me of warm weather— something we all crave. Lopez sang “Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” Lopez was wrong. In fact the juice and the skin of lemons, known as the zest, are delicious to eat. Of course the song was a metaphor and a precautionary tale against falling in love too easily—pretty to see with a lovely scent as well; yet unattainable in the end like the sour lemon.
But lemons in their multivariate attire are excellent to accent seafood and chicken, beans, greens and grains, and to brighten soups, stews and sauces alike. And of course what would summer be for kids and adults without lemonade, lemon drops, lemon cake and those chewy lemon squares. Lemons are tart but they are great combined with some sugar, mint and crushed ice. My favorite pot roast recipe, which is ideal for cold weather, is a sweet and sour braise—with the juice of one or more lemons and your favorite dried fruit, brown sugar, onions, carrots, red wine and water or beef broth.
There’s hardly a dish that doesn’t start with onions, but they also have their own role to play as a vegetable. If you’re not using them with stock or broth, they are special by themselves or in combination with other vegetables. I enjoy eating them caramelized on pizza, sandwiches or with eggs. Shallots are so divine when sautéed till crisp with green beans. Cauliflower. tomatoes in August or minced in salad dressing. Vidalia, Maui and Walla Walla onions are so sweet that you can eat them raw. I prefer them that way. They are almost too sweet to cook. And leeks cleaned carefully after cutting them in half vertically are wonderful braised alone in your favorite stock with a little sea salt and ground black pepper. Julia Child made this dish famous.
But onions can be unpleasant when peeling or chopping them. Wearing glasses or using a sharp knife will mitigate the tear-inducing chemical released into the air. This substance, called allicin combines with the moisture in our eyes to form a weak solution of sulfuric acid. But onions are worth a little pain.
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